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SPAIN: Juan Negrin and Carmen Negrin



Juan Negrín (1889-1956) was the last prime minister of the Spanish Republic. Before the Civil War I used to see him on his way to his laboratory next to the Residencia de Estudiantes. His grand daughter Carmen Negrín has sent me some corrections to a posting about him: "Just for the sake of historical precision: my grand father did set up the Spanish Republican government in exile, in London, not in Mexico. The government went to Mexico afterwards. He never lived in Mexico although he went there often, both for political and personal reasons, and he died in Paris". Carmen then discusses the current scene:

"Going on to the younger generation, I was born in the US, half of my family being 100% Republican WASPs from the Princeton area! However, I chose Berkeley in the 60s and have worked for 30 years in the UN system. This background gives access to a broad spectrum of opinions! Although I don't want to provoke any heart attacks, I cannot resist going back to Christopher Jones comments, because either my English has become very rusty and not clear enough or I was misunderstood! (or/and we disagree!) and also because I don't agree that Iraq is now history, Iraq, Syria, Iran are all part of the same ongoing matters.

Although I obviously have my political views on Iraq and Bush, my comments are purely technical: the question is whether or not Iraq is a "legal war", whether the possible future wars in Syria or Iran are legal, and whether or not Bush is telling the truth to his citizen voters about the reasons for this/these war/s. On the first point, there are international rules (approved by the US) which exist and which have been disregarded by the present US government, there has been a major breach of principles, as there was, both at international and national levels regarding the Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo, creating retroactive special legislation for special occasions. Wars are rarely a matter of morality, however some are legal and some are not. This one, until proven otherwise, is not, as opposed to the first one which -whether liked or not- was internationally acceptable. As a friend and ex UN civil servant, Phyllis Kotite, put it:

"The United Nations was created to prevent conflict . Chapter VI of the UN Charter deals with the peaceful settlement of disputes, eg mediation, negotiation, observer groups, etc. There is no precedent for support of preventive war (only Nazi Germany and Israel, in 1967 have utilized this pretext). Under Chapter VII, economic and diplomatic means of intervention are proposed, including, at a later stage, the establishment of peacekeeping forces to separate forces in conflict and re-establish peace. The UN cannot and should not condone punitive aggression without provocation. This situation is different from the UN action in Kuwait, an invaded country. To acquiesce in aggression conducted to change national regimes, gain a foothold on oil resources, and occupy another country in the guise of controlling lethal arms production, etc. is an unparalleled violation of UN principles and international law. It is a dangerous precedent for the future of humanity and world order. " It was urgent to settle the matter of the UN food for oil programme, thus France didn't veto the proposal. However, it is logical that outside the UN circles, its criticisms of US policy remain unchanged. I personally feel that it is better to be criticized by an ally than by an enemy, and the ally should be listened to and not rejected.

On the second point: Why is it so terrible for a President of the US to lie about his personal love life and yet acceptable for another one to lie about the whys of his public decisions, specially when they lead to war? Last but not least: Can/should the US decide for and impose on the whole world what the US thinks is good for it? Some people like wine, some like water, and others drink Coca Cola; some flagellate themselves when praying, others don't; you can explain why it might be better not to, but so long as they don't flagellate the one who doesn't want to be flagellated, there is no point in shooting them down!

Going back in time and talking about morality and US politics, I would like to recall that the Spanish Republic asked for support from the European democracies and from the US and didn't get it. Not only the US didn't help, but it also decided to keep Franco in power (I presume that, whatever our political views, we all agree that he was a dictator). In 1945, the Spanish loyalist Republican soldiers who had fought for the liberation of France, were stopped at the Pyrenees and denied the right to continue fighting for Spain's freedom. Indeed, as early as 1942, the US negociated its military bases in Franco's Spain, while he was still killing masses of republican prisoners. A $10,000 check was given by the US government in exchange of an internal change in Franco's government thus providing a pretext that there had been sufficient change in his government to make him acceptable enough to work with. The receipt is in Washington and was declassified a few years ago. There is an interesting book on the US-Spain relations Soberanos e intervenidos, estrategias globales, americanos y españoles by Joán E. Garcés.

Still on morality and US politics, the US didn't fight Hitler because he was "evil" to use the present terminology, nor because there were Jews in concentration camps but because of Pearl Harbour. Until then the country was quite hesitant and divided. The Lincoln Brigade, which did not represent the US government, fought for moral reasons, against the same enemy: fascism, yet they were not exactly welcome back home. The constant line in US politics (like in that of most countries) is not altruism but defending its own interests. And the question that comes up today with the Bush family is: in whose interest are decisions taken? An interesting lecture on the subject is the 1992 book called The mafia, CIA and George Bush: corruption, greed and abuse of power in the nation's highest office by Pete Brewton. Brewton could now write the second chapter of the Bush saga.

As Senator Robert Byrd put it: "The reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue". In fact, he said it all, in much better words then my own!

PS: Yes, fortunately there are elections in the US every four years, and it is not unintresting to recall that the last ones brought a number of still unanswered questions (and jokes such as the need for UN observers from Congo or Benin!). These elections were legalized, so the debate ended, but were they representative? As for Cuba, the US is much more of a threat to Cuba than the other way around!

Ronald Hilton - 6/3/03


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