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September 12, 2002

THIS ARTICLE SAYS that the Germans are still covering up important aspects of the Munich Olympics massacre.

UPDATE: Reader Ralf Goergens copies me on a letter he's sent taking issue with the Spectator article referenced above:

Letter to the Spectator:

Sir,

Simon Reeve neglects to mention some important aspects in his article "The German way with terror".

At the time no European government, nor the American one would have been prepared or been able to deal effectively with this kind of terrorism. Some serious mistakes were also made, but to suggest that anti-Semitism, latent or otherwise, was involved on the part of the German police is absurd, if not downright malicious.

This experience led to the founding of the GSG-9 who in 1977 stormed a Lufthansa jet abducted to Somalia. The GSG-9 killed three terrorists and captured the fourth, without any casualties among themselves or the passengers. The Munich debacle also strenghtened the general German resolve in dealing with terrorists. Our domestic terrorists were defeated, their demands for negotiation were turned down, at the expense of the lives of some hostages.

In the 1980s some Germans were abducted by Lebanese terrorists to prevent the incarceration of an accomplice of theirs, who had tortured and murdered an American navy diver and later was arrested by German police. He received a life-sentence despite the threat to murder the hostages. Here is the URL of a Congressional Record on that matter: Link

Around the same time, the head of the CIA station in Beirut was abducted and then tortured to death by the same terrorist organization. The USA never took any revenge for that, nor for the suicide-bombing of the US Marine barracks which led to the death of 241 Marines (lobbing some large shells in the general direction of suspected terrorists does hardly count). [I heartily agree -- GR]


I mention this only to show that it is impossible to properly deal with an implacable foe if one is unprepared for his savagery.

The current German government may refuse to participate in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but German military and police are nevertheless involved in fighting terrorism. German commandos are in Afghanistan, fighting remnant Al Queda and Taleban forces and German ships patrol around the horn of Africa. I wouldn't call this yielding to terror.

When fighting terror Germany is walking on thin ice, though. If German authorities had dealt with the terrorists in Munich as harshly as it seems appropriate now, with the benefit of hind-sight, your paper might very well have published an article called "The German way with massacre". alluding to some altogether different historic parallels. Today's world opinion would be happy to draw the same parallels if Germany did not act with the restraint it shows right now. Imagine the reaction to a German version of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Kind regards,

Ralf Goergens
Munich

These seem to be excellent points -- though, frankly, it's hard to imagine any more hysteria over Guantanamo Bay than actually took place. I imagine, in fact, that Mary Robinson would have been keenly respectful of German "sensitivities" on the subject.