Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert E. Barbour
BARBOUR: Well, we had people out on the streets to see if anything else was moving. We had the consular agents around, one of whom was in Valencia. Of course, the Spanish media had gone wild and was full of radio and TV coverage in situations throughout the country. They were determined, given their own inclinations, to demonstrate that this thing wasn't going anywhere, at least they hoped it wouldn't. The final determinant was of course the King. I was able to talk to a friend who was the deputy commandant of the Guardia, but all he was able to do was to confirm that they were real Guardia units. Our first reaction was that these were the Basque terrorists who had gotten a hold of some Guardia uniforms, and were staging this massive spectacular event in Madrid to get the people out of jail that they wanted out of jail. That took up about the first half hour until I was able to get the confirmation from Guardia Nacional itself. So, what are the dimensions of this thing? Well, the dimensions at first were horrendous, as I said. The entire government, because in that system you know, they're all parliamentarians and we had a vote of confidence, every cabinet minister is there, and every parliamentarian. It's a question of assessment, and you were guided as you well know, by your own data base, as we say now, by the people you can get on the telephone, what you get from your immediate coverage and what is available. You feed it in with your conclusions.
Q: When things are really like that, you want quick stuff, how about your military attach�s?
BARBOUR: Yes, they were out on the streets. We were very bold at that time because this was 1980 more or less, we gave them all little radios. That was 14 years ago, portable radios, little walkie-talkies. We had them out on the streets and I was scared to death, I said, “Keep these things in your pockets unless you absolutely have to use them. Call in by telephone, use a pay phone. Don't let them see Americans lurking in the background saying unintelligible things on portable radios.” But we did have people on the streets, around the parliament and out where they should have been. We got a lot of information which confirmed our impressions.
Q: Were you able to get from our military people whether there were troop movements. Because this is usually the key. If all of a sudden the tanks or armored cars start rolling out of the barracks...
BARBOUR: ...as they did, about midnight we looked out of our windows and saw this long line of armored cars proceeding down the boulevard. And the question was, which way are their guns pointed? They were not factors. And what we learned from one of the assistant army attach�s who was down there was that they drove up with no orders, not clear what they were supposed to do, and turned around and went back to their barracks. Another sign that this thing wasn't really going to go anyplace, dramatic though it was.