Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The American base at Rota and the dead hand of fascism in Spain, part 3

Starting in 1953, President Eisenhower made an alliance with Franco, getting the naval base at Rota. Dropping anti-fascist coverage (strong during the war and occasionally affecting Franco), American mainstream newspapers now covered Franco favorably or not at all. As a consequence of the Truman-McCarthy period (the heroes of the Abraham Lincoln brigade were now labeled “premature anti-fascists”; during the Cold War, mainstream academics were often possessed by irrational and anti-democratic fear of radicalism; in the late 1960s, I knew only one history graduate student at Harvard, a radical, who was working on Spanish Civil War, on his own and without much encouragement), academics shied away from Spain. Even anti-Nazi protestors who learned about the kidnapping of so-called Aryan children from Poland to Germany – teams of doctors, psychologists and sociologists gave them IQ tests, did skull measurements, and the like – did not learn of similar practices in Spain or Argentina (for the Nazis, see the 1975 Clarissa Henry and Marc Hillel movie “Of Pure Blood”). The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) emphasizes in Article II, the crime of kidnapping children and resettling them in foreign homes.*

Article II bars:

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

I have long been active against fascism, and am aware of these crimes in Germany, the United States and Canada (in North America and Australia, the transfer of children from the homes of indigenous people to Catholic and Protestant orphanages is odious. See Ward Churchill’s Kill the Indian, Save the Man, City Lights Press, for some of the evidence about North America). But in El Pais, December 24, 2010. N. Junquera and M. Altozano’s “Did my baby die or was it snatched? Hundred of families live with unresolved doubts over Franco’s Stolen Children” came as a surprise to me. One should take the activities of bipartisan Bush and Obama opposition to universal jurisdiction in cases of torture and extraordinary rendition – what Janet Napolitano spoke of as an “irritant” – in this context. It is now hard to remember when the US formally stuck up for justice (at least where it was not supporting authoritarian and even fascist regimes such as Franco’s, that is, most of the time). Perhaps one must journey back to World War II…

There is much dark criminality in Spain, which needs to be brought to light, about which the victims and/or their descendants need healing, and perhaps at best, as in South Africa, those oppressors who express serious public remorse in hearings, need to be reconciled. But the crimes now occurred as at minimum 35 years ago and many as long as 75. Many of the perpetrators are dying or dead. But the disappeared children and their relatives, for example, must still, gradually, with slow surmise and investigation, try to make peace with what happened to them (an impossibility, but Truth and Reconciliation would be some help). The influence of Espana negra (the dark Spain) lives poisonously on.

According to Altozano and Junquera, some years ago, families who had lost babies in the O’Donnell clinic in Madrid - allegedly dead from ear infections - began talking with one another. The number soon reached 300. “Did they tell you too that the baby had died of an ear infection and been buried?”

Some of the families took the cases to Judge Balthasar Garzon, who estimated that “nearly 30,000 children had been stolen under Franco,” and wanted to go in search of them because ‘for over 60 years it has not been investigated at all.” Three families also took their cases to High Court Public Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza. He buried the cases, and removed and charged Garzon for investigating the crimes of Franco.

Franco authorized the stealing of children from “suspected Republicans” (meaning both political opponents and whoever the Falange had seized) who were in prison. In addition, through the O’Donnell clinic in Madrid, Franco corrupted administrators, doctors and nurses for pay. These “hospital” personnel prevailed upon women, even some former defenders of the Republic which Franco overthrew (“leftists” and “reds”), to give birth there, and then stole the children, reported them “dead,” and sold them.

May Soriano told the story of her sister “born on January 3, 1964. My mother breastfed the baby until they told her she had to be taken to an incubator. When my parents went to look for her, they were told she had died of an ear infection. My father said he wanted to see her and bury her and they said they had already taken care of it and she was in a mass grave. It was at the O’Donnell clinic in Madrid.”

A mass grave…I thought mass graves were for the slaughters in the cemeteries mostly in 1936. See part 1 here. What were they doing, throwing children into “mass graves” in the 1950s and 60s? Was the message here – you are a republican so your newborn will be secretly thrown into a mass grave and forgotten? Here, the interviewer was plainly not up to the story that Soriano was trying to share…

Nuria Masso was the sister of Miguel Angel [Michael Angelo]. born in 1965. “’My mother was told that my brother had died of an ear infection. And it was also at the O’Donnell clinic. They took him to an incubator and six days later they said he was dead. They told my parents it was better for them not to see him because he had ended up in a terrible state. When they insisted, they said he had already been buried.’”

Was this, too, a mass grave? What "doctors" bury children who have died secretly, without even telling the parents they are dead?

“’I think the motive was economic. It was a method honed to perfection, which included hospital directors, doctors, midwives – and was protected by Francoism. I think that families who were able to buy a child could do so.’”

The crass monetarism of Franco's supposedly "pristine rural society" needs to be taken into account. Fascism is the practice of the worst that humanity is capable of toward its victims, and is, of course, hideously for (even small) profit…

As Desmond Tutu describes here, Truth and Reconciliation is a mirror in which the victims find some public acknowledgment and hear the full story; the criminals could apologize for and repudiate the conduct, look at themselves to the extent possible, once again, as human beings.

Blanca Guerrero reports a case, “’which dates back to 1945. My mother Agustina handed out milk in a maternity ward on Serrano street in Madrid. She was leftwing. My father and my mother had many people in their family who had suffered reprisals. She was pregnant and they put her under so much pressure to have the baby there [the O’Donnell clinic] that finally she agreed. They told her the baby was still born but my mother says she had felt him move. One of my sisters had just died of tuberculosis and my mother was in a terrible state. Otherwise she would have reacted in a different way.’”

Here is the terrible, debilitating power of fascism. Known as a leftwinger, her family repressed and damaged, this woman “had been pressured” into having the baby at this monstrous “clinic.” And then the baby disappeared with an unbelievable “explanation.” And she could do nothing. These were anti-doctors, anti-nurses…

The tendency to blame her own weakness for giving in, no matter how desperate the circumstances, perhaps ate at her enough not simply, unambiguously, to be able to fight the monsters. But her child Blanca took up the cause…

Yet even Blanca cannot quite name the horror.

Put yourself in John Rawls' original position. Imagine that it is your daughter, your son...

Another Agustina waited long, dying at age 101 in 2009. Challenging High Court prosecutor Zaragoza, Fernando Magan, her lawyer, brought her case repeatedly to the court so that it would take a statement and a DNA sample before she died.

Others died with no judicial aid, with this unresolved question gnawing at them. The daughter of one who perished, Marina Alvarez paid for DNA tests on five women who lived in France, Belgium and the Spanish regions of La Rioja, Murcia and Zamora, whom she thought might be her sister.

Hair is vital evidence for DNA testing. Julia Manzanal, 95, keeps a lock of her daughter’s hair in a box. When she was imprisoned in Amorbieta, “doctors” told Manzanal her daughter had died. Blanca Guerrero feels that she would know her brother. She has also kept a lock of “’[my] mother’s hair to extract the DNA, in case my brother turns up, I think I’d know him if I saw him. My sister and I talk about him a lot, about Miguel Angel, which is the name my mother gave him.’”

The crimes here are fresh in the memory of the victims and their children; there is an intense need for surviving Falangist and their political heirs, to bury the crimes, to silence the victims. Truth is of great, liberating, very hard to come by significance in today’s Spain. Note how ferocious the lock-in effect is. Many of the criminals have died. Yet the Right in Spain, led by Prosecutor Zaragoza, props up the bronzed head of the idol Franco, a “great leader,” spews pretence, seeks urgently to keep the crimes in the dark…

Though a democracy, in some ways even a vibrant one, after 1975 (the outburst of public art in Spain and Madrid, is wonderful, exuberant compared to the dull fascism of the Franco period, as bright as day in Barcelona*), the intense fog of fascism, the Espana Negra of Columbus and the Inquisition projected into modern times, hangs heavily, painfully over Spain.** After Franco's death, a peaceful transition to democracy occurred – a wonder – and yet an incomplete one, one that protects the heritage of fascism, In this context, the contrast of South Africa and what was accomplished by the movement from below led by Mandela and Tutu is striking. They sought and achieved some healing. In Spain, there is, as of now, none.

In addition, Rota, and the other American bases, are not, as I noted in the first post in this series, of the past. America, including under Obama, strives to suppress current crimes and allies with those like Zaragoza who want to keep Franco's crimes, even the kidnapping, under wraps. Prime Minister Zapatero heroically withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq in 2004. But today, he works to make ROTA the head of the new African command (Africom). In my course at IBEI, I asked about the American bases in Spain, and only one student, Ricardo Barcala Munoz, knew of this one and three others (the CIA also flew the kidnapped through Barajas Airport in Madrid on the way to be tortured elsewhere, for instance Bagram or Guantanamo).

Until I read the story in El Pais, I had not known about Rota (see below). 10 years ago, when I stayed in Mallorca for the winter, I had seen the sixth fleet off Palma. It was impossible not to wonder what the fleet was doing off this island in the seemingly peaceful Mediterranean. The sixth fleet which was based primarily at Rota, patrols the Mediterranean. Thus, as my Moroccan friend Hamid in Granada told me in late 2003,*** when King Hasan 1, the tyrant about whom one could not utter a criticism in Morocco without risking one’s life, died, the regime did not announce it. Instead, the sixth fleet moved off Morocco to intervene if there had been an uprising. The elite waited a few days, and then announced the death and appointment of King Hasan II.

Think of the great struggle in Tunisia over the last several weeks, just suddenly emerging in the New York Times in the last few days. See Rob Prince’s insightful "Tunisia and the New York Times" here. Mostly Tunisia has not been covered in the Times, the dictator supported by the Pentagon and the neocons, the sixth fleet available to protect them. State Department influence barely interceded in time for the Times to bring out the story. America appears in most of the world as an imperialist nation (now in decline), its fleets everywhere, poking into everything, its willingness to use unjust force even under Obama (the drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia) blatant. See Andrew Bacevich in the Atlantic here. .

Nick Turse has just done a powerful story trying to estimate the number of American bases abroad. He improves on Chalmers Johnson’s pioneering “empire of bases” (chapter 6 of Sorrows of Empire, some 750) and shows that there are now somewhere around 1.180. See here. Spain today exists in the shadow of fascism and empire. The bipartisan efforts of Bush and Obama to pursue the war complex or protect its criminality also undergird corruption in the Spanish judiciary, notably Zaragoza, and Zaragoza's efforts to put the heroic Judge Garzon on trial. Sadly, American empire is often nearly akin to fascism abroad.

Below is the Wikipedia entry on Rota base - well worth reading despite the jargon since it is a prototype of the 1,180 US bases - and a telling article by Matt Rothschild on Martin Luther King and the easy praise - it's just rolls off the tongue at NFL games - of American occupying soldiers in 177 countries!


Naval Station Rota (NavSta Rota) is a Spanish naval base commanded by a Spanish Vice Admiral.[1] Located in Rota, Spain, and near the Spanish town of El Puerto de Santa María, NavSta Rota is the largest American military community in Spain and houses US Navy Sailors, Marines, and their families. There are also small US Army and US Air Force contingents on the base.


Described by the US Navy as the "Gateway to the Mediterranean", Naval Station Rota is home to an airfield and a seaport; the airfield has often caused the base to be misidentified as "Naval Air Station Rota." The base is the headquarters for Commander, U.S. Naval Activities Spain (COMNAVACTSPAIN), as well as a primary gateway for Air Mobility Command flights into Europe.[2]

Naval Station Rota is strategically located near the Straits of Gibraltar and at the halfway point between the United States and Southwest Asia. Because of this ideal location, the base is able to provide invaluable support to both US Sixth Fleet units in the Mediterranean and to USAF Air Mobility Command units transiting to Germany and Southwest Asia. The Base and its tenant commands are located within the boundaries of the 6,100-acre (25 km2) Spanish 'Base Naval de Rota.' Under the guidance of the Agreement for Defense Cooperation, the US and Spanish navies work together and share many facilities. The US Navy has the responsibility for maintaining the station's infrastructure, including a 670-acre (2.7 km2) airfield, three active piers, 426 facilities and 806 family housing units.[1]

From Naval Station Rota Spain, the VLF-transmitter Guardamar, which uses Torreta de Guardamar, the tallest man-made structure in the European Union as antenna, is telecontroled.

Naval Station Rota provides support for US and NATO ships; supports the safe and efficient movement of US Navy and US Air Force flights and passengers; and provides cargo, fuel, and ammunition to units in the region. The Naval Station is the only base in the Mediterranean capable of supporting Amphibious Readiness Group post-deployment wash-downs. The base port also offers secure, pier side maintenance and backload facilities. Rota supports Amphibious Readiness Group turnovers and hosts Sailors and Marines from visiting afloat units. The base also provides Quality of Life support to Morón Air Base, ARG support sites at Palma de Majorca, NATO headquarters in Madrid and the Military Sealift Command's Maritime Prepositioning Squadron 1. Rota also supports NASA Space Shuttle missions, and ongoing operations in the European theater of operations.[1]

The mission of US Forces at Rota, as well as other US Navy installations in the Mediterranean such as NAS Sigonella, Italy and Naval Air Facility Souda Bay, Crete, is to provide Command, Control and Logistics Support to US and NATO Operating Forces. These three facilities are undergoing a transformation from Maritime Patrol Aircraft airfields to Multi-role “Hubs” providing crucial air-links for USAF strategic airlift and mobility in support of US European Command (EUCOM), Central Command (CENTCOM) and African Area contingency operations under CENTCOM, EUCOM and the evolving Africa Command (AFRICOM).[1]


NAVSTA Rota has been in use since 1953 when Spanish dictator Francisco Franco strengthened relations with the Americans to improve local economies. The installation now covers more than 6,000 acres (24 km2) on the northern shore of Cadiz, an area recognized for its strategic, maritime importance over the centuries.

The Chief of Naval Operations deployed Submarine Squadron 16 (SUBRON 16) to Rota on 28 January 1964 and embarked upon USS Proteus (AS-19). USS Lafayette (SSBN-616) completed its first Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) deterrent patrol with the Polaris missile and commenced the first refit and replenishment at Rota. During the early 1970s, the submarines assigned to Squadron 16 were completing conversion to the Poseidon missile. That transition was completed when USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) returned to Rota on 14 January 1974. Treaty negotiations between Spain and the United States in 1975 resulted in a planned withdrawal of SUBRON 16 from Spain, and the Chief of Naval Operations ordered studies to select a new refit site on the East Coast of the United States. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in June 1976; it called for the squadron's withdrawal from Spain by July 1979. In November 1976 the Secretary of the Navy announced Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia as that new refit site.[1]

At its peak size in the early 1980s, NAVSTA Rota was home to 16,000 sailors and their families, to include two permanently forward deployed aviation squadrons, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron TWO (VQ-2) and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron TWENTY TWO (VR-22). VQ-2 was based at Rota from 1959 until 2005, when it relocated to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. During VQ-2's tenure at Rota, it flew the P4M Mercator, EC-121 Super Constellation, EA-3 Skywarrior, and the EP-3 Aries aircraft.[3] VR-22 flew the C-130F and was based at Rota from 1982 until its inactivation in 1992. Through the early 1990s, a patrol squadron of P-3 Orion aircraft based in the United States would also be split-based between NAVSTA Rota and the Naval Air Facility at Lajes Air Base in the Azores to track Soviet naval vessels and submarines in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean. The patrol squadrons would rotate assignment to Rota and Lajes every six months and were augmented by Naval Air Reserve patrol squadrons for shorter durations on a periodic basis.

With the downsizing of the US Navy during the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially after the end of the Cold War, the base's population dramatically declined. The US Navy maintains approximately 5,200 acres (21 km2) of the 6,000-acre (24 km2) complex. There are about 4,000 Americans in Rota, including military, civilians, and their families.[1]

The base is used jointly by Spain and the United States. It remains under the Spanish flag and is commanded by a Spanish Vice Admiral. While the Spanish Navy is responsible for external security of the base, both Navies are charged with internal security. NAVSTA Rota is technically a tenant facility of the Rota Spanish Navy base, although as such the USA enjoys the base for free and does not pay any rent to Spain. As such, certain U.S. military customs are not observed, such as the display of a U.S. Flag, which is only allowed during the annual Fourth of July celebration.


"NAS Rota". p. 7 paragraphs down.
"Commander Navy Installations Command at Rota". Rota, Spain: US Navy. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
"FLEET AIR RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON TWO". Rota, Spain: US Navy. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-01.

External links

U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain website
U.S. Naval Hospital Rota, Spain website
VQ-2 Homepage
Video links
(Spanish) Old documentary on the inauguration of Rota airfield at YouTube

Monday, January 17, 2011 by The Progressive
US Empire Mocks Martin Luther King Day
by Matthew Rothschild

I was watching the great Green Bay Packers game Saturday night, and at half time there was a presentation of colors. The honor guard was representing, we were told, the men and women in uniform who are protecting us in 177 countries around the world.

177 countries?

As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., that one fact tells you how just badly we’ve failed to put into practice the vision of Dr. King.

That fact of troops in 177 countries confirms that we are still “a society gone mad on war,” as Dr. King noted in his magnificent speech at Riverside Church entitled, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. (All the quotes that follow are from this speech of King’s, his most profound and radical one.) That fact of troops in 177 countries confirms that we have yet to have the “true revolution of values” that will make us “say of war: ‘This way of settling our differences is not just.’ ”

That fact—along with Bush’s war in Iraq and Obama’s war in Afghanistan and the U.S. supplying two-thirds of the global arms trade--confirms that we are still “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

That fact confirms that we still have failed to embrace “allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism.”

King said, “Our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole…a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation.” And so he talked of being “a citizen of the world.”

But we are as nationalistic as ever in this country today.

And the fact that we have troops in 177 countries means that we are “approaching spiritual death” because we as a nation continue “year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift.”

And the fact that we have troops in 177 countries means that we are an empire, and that we are still “refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.” Dr. King denounced in this speech the “individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”

That is still going on today, and it goes by the fancy name of “globalization,” but it’s the same old neo-imperialism.

Today, with troops in 177 countries, we still wrestle with “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.”

And today, with troops in 177 countries, we still have a “glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.” Actually, it’s even more glaring than when King spoke 44 years ago.

Dr. King urged us to have a “radical revolution of values.”

But with troops stationed in 177 countries, that revolution seems more distant than ever.

And note: President Obama on the campaign trail liked to quote a phrase from Dr. King’s Riverside speech, though he didn’t identify the speech itself. That phrase was “the fierce urgency of now.” But Obama’s “fierce urgency of now” was not well defined, much less acted upon. Dr. King was clear, however: The urgency was about choosing between “nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.”

We have not yet made that choice.

And Obama has not made that choice.

In fact, he went to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, where he invoked King’s name but then quarreled with him and came out defending war.

So, today, the United States has troops in 177 countries. And that’s nothing to celebrate on Martin Luther King Day.

*Trailing far behind the rest of the world The United States finally ratified this convention in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter. The Truman administration feared that blacks could successfully bring the charge against the United States. William Patterson’s We Charge Genocide, a pamphlet of the Civil Rights Congress in the late 1940s, makes it clear how easy, on the facts of segregation, this charge is to sustain.

**The Museu d art contemporani is very different and modern – in that sense an explosion – but lacks substance, is closed off from the ordinary viewer, has little way to connect. Though a beautiful building right next to IBEI, few go there. On the other had, everyone goes to the Sagrada Familia, built by Gaudi, which has the vision of flowering geometries – recreating a Church in nature, something far removed from Catholicism – and is now a symbol of Barcelona. There is much contemporary public art, very adventuresome and striking, in Barcelona as in Madid.

***In 2003, Hamid worked in a restaurant down the street from where we were living and befriended my 7 year old son. He and I talked often. He had graduated from the University of Granada as an artist, his co-worker had graduated as a computer programer. Waiting tables was the only job, given Spanish racism, they could get.

When I was just in Barcelona, however, Zapatero's commendable programs to help the Roma get jobs and enter society as opposed to being ostracized, condemned, starved, and feared, stood out in all of Europe, particularly compared to the racist expulsion of the Roma by Sarkozy in France.

1 comment:

bubbamoose said...

My Family lived on the base from 1970-1975. My Dad was an officer working in the base Naval communication facility. I had just entered the 6th grade & left during my Sophmore year. I recall being a confused youth at the tender age of then, not very excited about the move there from Florida. Yet I recall very well how much I wanted to finish High School there! It was the best place to live for me & I've missed those days terribly.
Lee Barret

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