"Democracy is defended in the sewers as well as in the salons"
This is how Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez 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 in 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 Gonzalez's own cabinet, have been revealed, despite all the resources of 'State secrecy', by controversial magistrates like Baltasar Garzan.
Over the last 15 years, the GAL scandal has fatally undermined Gonzalez'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. Gonzalez 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.
One of the most important books about post-Franco Spain ever published. Paul Preston, Professor of Spanish Studies, London School of Economics
A brilliant piece of investigative journalism that deserves to be read by more than just those interested in Spain...a thrilling and sometimes gruesome narrative journey involving murder, abduction, conspiracy and legal trial...his oral sources are astonishing...using the best methods of contemporary journalism...story-telling, reconstructions of conversations and a sophisticated analysis of the politicians' discourse. Times Literary Supplement
Makes an important contribution to the literature on political violence...it brilliantly depicts the human drama of the conflict and provides penetrating insights into the world of ETA. Richard Gillespie, School of Politics, University of Liverpool
The book was completed before just before the World Trade Centre attacks on 11 September...but now carries a prescient urgency and universal relevance... Woodworth's dark, definitive examination of the violent response to terrorism is alarmingly relevant. The Scotsman
Should become a reference text in every university with a peace studies curriculum. Brian Keenan, author of An Evil Cradling and former Beirut hostage