On October 10, Movistar Plus+ premiered Los 8 de Irak, the platforms’ latest documentary series – produced in association with 100 Balas (THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO) – which narrates the worst ever attack against Spain’s National Intelligence Service, the CNI, leaving not only the greatest number of casualties, but also its deepest wound.

The four-part series narrates what took place in Iraq before, during and after the fatal ambush which claimed the lives of the eight Spanish secret service agents on November 29, 2003.

The series tackles the convulsive geopolitical context which sparked the fatal outcome, as well as granting audiences access to the always hermetically sealed CNI to better understand their work, their missions and the select few chosen to carry them out in a series of more than 30 interviews, filmed at over 40 locations and with impeccable rendering at the hand of Fátima Lianes.

If there is one thing above all else that stands out about Los 8 de Irak it’s the ability to create a nail-biting thriller, a story that had almost been forgotten but deserved to be rescued. The narrative successfully manages to engage audiences’ interest in each episode, with promising beginnings and cliffhangers integrated in such an organic way that they even feel like they’re part of real life.

But what’s truly captivating about Los 8 de Irak is the raw emotion, palpable at every turn throughout the story. The wound that is very much still open for each of the individuals who bears witness in the series. The broken voices of agents, trained to endure the unthinkable, everything that is, except the memory of those Iraq 8who should never have been there. This  emotion is what makes this documentary the tribute they deserved.

An introductory class to how the CNI works

Secrecy is key to the functioning of any country’s National Intelligence service and as such, any crack at all in the door sparks greater interest among audiences than any other area of the State.

Herein lies one of the greatest attractions of Los 8 de Irak, as it sheds light on some of the processes we never usually hear people talking about: everything from how they recruit interpreters, how a member of the service is chosen and even some of the grueling trials they are submitted to. Undeniably it’s just the tip of the iceberg of the work they do, but for us mere mortals, it smacks of gold.

We are also privy to some of the expressions commonplace and transmitted as part of  their professional philosophy: “In the intelligence field, there is no such thing as coincidence”, “each individual remembers, not necessarily what happened, but what they believe happened”, “what is written, is written” or “who are the bad guys?”, are just a few examples.

In addition, the documentary gives a voice to testimonies that would rarely be allowed to see the light of day, including those of mission coordinators, special operations directors, former directors of the intelligence services, former CIA agents, army commanders, etc., those we are seeing for the first time as they reflect on successes and failures within their world, all expertly delivered, wrapped around archive footage that make this the perfectly well-rounded class for beginners.

‘Los 8 de Irak’. Movistar Plus+.

The agonizing ambush as climax to this tale

From the beginning of this story, all roads are leading up to the moment of the ambush. To a climax that traps us between a rock and a hard place, the dilemma of never wanting the moment to arrive, while eagerly awaiting that point, so we can try to discover what really happened that fateful afternoon.

The recollection of one of the witnesses, as they compare the normal everyday goings on in the city Madrid on that day, November 29, against the backdrop of what they knew was actually taking place in Iraq, is heartbreaking and you’ll be forgiven for having a lump in your throat as they relate what it felt like losing their comrades.

But even more shocking is the recreation of the attack suffered by the two vehicles from a third vehicle as it chased them with Kalashnikovs blaring and which caused the first injuries, only to be finished off by a series of snipers far off in the distance.

A sequence that chills the blood as we try to imagine what it must have been like for those agents on the ground. Our agents. Anguish that only multiplies after underlining the historical context and how it was a handful of our leaders who put us on the map for weapons of mass destruction that never existed.

“We shouldn’t be here”, one of the Iraq 8 is reported to have said only weeks before the ambush. And he was right. A verified fact we can all be sure of almost 20 years later, sparking even greater fury having lost eight of our own, needlessly.

‘Los 8 de Irak’. Movistar Plus+.

The long-overdue tribute owed to The Irak 8

From an image that remains stamped on your brain, that of a group pose of Los 8 de Irak in what nobody would realize was going to be their final photograph together, the documentary provides a name, face and story for all the protagonists in the greatest wound ever suffered by the CNI.

Alberto Martínez was “the man in Iraq”, the chosen one, the protagonist; Ignacio Zanón was brought on for his experience, after having only recently become a father to a daughter he would never get to meet; José Lucas Egea was married, like José Merino, whose wife and two children were waiting for him at home; Carlos Baró was a born leader, and with no fear of death; Alfonso Vega preferred to remain in the shadows to protect the group from a distance; José Carlos Rodríguez Pérez had arrived in Iraq three days before the attack to recon the terrain; he would later return to Spain before subsequently rejoining his comrades at what was to be his final destination.

As the end credits roll, it has already become impossible to refer to these men as “The Iraq 8”. They have by now become a part of our families. Of our history. Of our collective memory. And by remembering them, they exist among us once more. Surely the most fitting tribute such a documentary might ever hope to achieve.

Paula Hergar
Paula Hergar is a 360 journalist as Paquita Salas would say, writes about TV in Vertele and presents, writes, and directs Zapping on LOS40. In addition to collaborating in cultural programs in La 2 and being the author of the book ‘Around the world in 80 series’.