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An analysis of the covert action teams in Munich
December 27, 2005 8:13 AM   Subscribe

The Israeli Response to the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre and the Development of Independent Covert Action Teams is a very interesting 1995 military paper for background and analysis of the Israeli response to the slaughter of Jewish Olympians in 1972. This hot topic is at issue in Spielberg's controversial new film Munich. The film is based on a book by journalist George Jonas and a self-proclaimed Mossad agent, Yuval Aviv. The book also served as the basis for the 1986 movie Sword of Gideon.
posted by dios (58 comments total)

 
That paper is an interesting find. There is indeed something to be said in favor of allowing operation teams more autonomy, but this needs to be balanced against the need for accountability which can only be fulfilled by a clear hierarchy of command. Incidentally, here is Jonas's actual book, which may be of marginally more help than the link in the FPP. I suppose we should be grateful that the "hot topic" link didn't go here.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:26 AM on December 27, 2005


People ought to also know about One Day In September, the Academy Award winning documentary about the Munich games. Spielberg's film begins with the words "inspired by real events". This film strictly limits itself to the real events, including the back stories of the athletes, Germany's bumbling of the rescue attempts and their unwillingness to let the Israelis assist, and their suspected coopoeration in the terrorists' escape. It is (not surprisingly) MUCH more interesting, effective (as a film), and devastating, imho.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:28 AM on December 27, 2005


sorry if that's a bit off-topic, dios.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:28 AM on December 27, 2005


I'll second fingers_of_fire's comment. 'One Day In September' is an arresting documentary.
posted by NationalKato at 8:31 AM on December 27, 2005


fingers_of_fire: that is a good recommendation. The post was more about the Israeli use of covert action groups to respond to the incident as opposed to the incident itself. So, I didn't include the documentary for that reason. But it is a good film to round out the discussion for those who are interested, so thanks for pointing it out.
posted by dios at 8:37 AM on December 27, 2005


I am interested in seeing the new Spielberg flick; anyone know how it -- or Jonas' book, which I distrust because of the fellow's links to the Black-Amiels -- situates the events within the larger political context? (Good post, dios!)
posted by docgonzo at 8:39 AM on December 27, 2005


I haven't seen Munich yet, but One Day in September is really an amazing film (which I was initially horrified to think that Munich was a retelling of, since the documentary was superlative in all aspects).

the subject definately dredges up a ton of feelings.

thanks for the great read. (not that I've finished it yet)
posted by Busithoth at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2005


situates the events within the larger political context?

What do you mean?

I saw the film yesterday (which is why I was searching around reading about it). I could try to answer a question about it, but I'm not sure what you mean about "the larger political context."
posted by dios at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2005


The Wall Street Journal's film critic seemed to think that Aaron Klein's Striking Back is a better (read: more accurate) book than Jonas' book Vengeance, which is considered by many to be, er, somewhat looser with facts (this Jerusalem Post columnist calls it "largely discredited"). It's too bad Spielberg chose the latter as the basis for his "historical fiction" film. And the decision to not include the Lillehammer murder - probably the Israeli agents' most well-publicized error - is just mind-boggling.
posted by mediareport at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2005


Is there any way we could derail this into a discussion of seatbelts?
posted by stinkycheese at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2005


The Wall Street Journal's film critic seemed to think that Aaron Klein's Striking Back is a better [than Vengeance]. It's too bad Spielberg chose the latter.

Well, one reason that Spielberg didn't base it on Striking Back might have something to do with the fact that the movie was already in the theaters before Striking Back came out (Pub. date Dec. 20, 2005). Heh.

But thanks for pointing that out. I got a Borders gift card for Christmas, and I'll check that out.
posted by dios at 8:52 AM on December 27, 2005


larger political context

Well, whether the movie focusses more on the human drama and issues of murder and revenge or places the players within the conflict over the Jewish state and Palestinian displacement. Or both.
posted by docgonzo at 8:54 AM on December 27, 2005


FYI - the British developed a lot of these sort of strategies - called 'low intensity operations' - in counter-insurgency wars in Malaysia and Kenya, under General Frank Kitson. He wrote a book on it. It was then applied wholesale to Northern Ireland.

The problem with deep-cover autonomous LIO teams is that they are, well, autonomous. In Northern Ireland this led to battles between MI5 and MI6, and to Army intelligence cells setting up fake terrorist gangs, robbing banks, running prostitution rackets at childrens' homes, sabotaging other intelligence services' operations, getting involved in racketeering and organized crime, setting up assassinations/murders, etc.

The problem in Northern Ireland (as it is in Spielberg's film) was at what point do you become that which you abhor?

If you liked the article, here's a CIA discussion document on the application of LIO to Iraq.
posted by carter at 9:05 AM on December 27, 2005


whether the movie focuses more on the human drama and issues of murder and revenge or places the players within the conflict over the Jewish state and Palestinian displacement. Or both.
posted by docgonzo at 10:54 AM CST on December 27


Well, I'm not a film critic, but I thought it was focused on the broader political context but primarily did so by showing how individuals perceive it and effect it. The story doesn't go into the origins of the conflict, but I think that is the point: at this point, isn't it self-perpetuating to such an extent that the origin is no longer important? Instead the movie gives play to the questions of the efficacy of revenge, the pointlessness of killing of the terrorist heads when another one will take his place, the resulting cycle of violence, and how states get caught up in the logic of feeling the need to show strength in response to something. At one point there is a discussion between the Mossad agent (pretending he isn't Jewish) and a Hamas type about the I-P conflict. There is a sympathetic view of why people would hold both positions in the conflict and condemnation of both, that I saw. And, Spielberg even tried to bring home the question of responses to terror to American audiences with the final scene/image that stayed on the screen during the credits.

So, I'd say it presents a number of questions, but doesn't really answer them, regarding the causes of terrorism, the cruel cycle of it, and the effects of terrorism and state-sanctioned revenge which are the gravamen of the I-P conflict. It wasn't about why the conflict started or about what kind of solution would end it. Instead, I think Spielberg tried to personalize the viewpoints and show how the hatred can come from simple protective instincts (familial and nationalistic, as opposed to religious extremism). And those simple instincts are the ones that are the hardest to ignore. In my opinion, Spielberg did a good job trying to show how easy it is to justify actions which have unintended but obviously counterproductive consequences.

But that is just my personal view of the film, so it is subjective of course. I'd recommend the movie, but that wasn't really the point of my FPP. I just think the issue in the military paper which is also the issue in the film is interesting as a historical issue and its implications on how we are prosecuting our war against terror.
posted by dios at 9:20 AM on December 27, 2005


Munich is a much better Mission Impossible movie than either of the last two formal remakes in that series...
posted by fairmettle at 9:39 AM on December 27, 2005


Excellent post and subsequent links.
posted by OmieWise at 9:52 AM on December 27, 2005


(spoilers ahead, btw)

dios -- I do think that Spielberg attempts to provide some kind of personal answer to the questions. Specifically, it's your home is your family; and your home is your all. Distrust governments and their intentions. Be loyal, but do not confuse your state with your family. Do not believe that every action you do for the good of your nation is one that will also benefit your core social nucleus. Similarly, do not believe that the map is your home. Your home is not the land of forefathers long since dead, but it is wherever your loved ones sleep; and where you can be safe.

That's the lesson that Avner picks up from Louis' father, and it's one that he carries through to the end of the film; demonstrating his embrace of it both in his conversations with Ephraim and Ali. It's not Spielberg's ambition to make policy recommendations because the film believes that if people focused on this and did not abide by the manipulations of madmen, demagogues and politicians, then the world would be a more peaceful place.
posted by bl1nk at 9:54 AM on December 27, 2005


One Day in September is really an amazing film

There was also a book by the same name that looks like a good read; I just got it for christmas after expressing interest in Munich. Also, Roger Ebert has a good review of One Day....
posted by TedW at 9:55 AM on December 27, 2005


The story doesn't go into the origins of the conflict, but I think that is the point: at this point, isn't it self-perpetuating to such an extent that the origin is no longer important?

I don't wish to derail this thread, and I haven't seen the movie yet nor read the book, but do you mean to tell me that the movie does not explain the motivations of the Black September terrorists? Do they just assume that everyone knows about everything leading up to The Six-Day War and the ugly back and forth that happened from 1967 to the time leading up to the Olympics? I hope that Senior Spielbergo took the time to explain what precipitated the hate and gave motivation for the terrorists. To say that the origin is no longer important is to ask for the same thing to happen again.
posted by furtive at 10:01 AM on December 27, 2005


carter: do you remember, off-hand, where you read about the LIO teams in N. Ireland? Curious because I'm working on something the area. Apologies for the derail.
posted by Football Bat at 10:04 AM on December 27, 2005


err... 'involving the area'... sorry...
posted by Football Bat at 10:05 AM on December 27, 2005


Let's not forget about all the other wonderful Israeli assassinations, such as the graffiti writers of Jenin (est. 10 assassinated for writing political graffitti in the 70's) or the poet and editor Kamal Nasser, who Ehud Barak assassinated while dressed in women's clothes. Barak likes to joke about this event when he gives speeches to college students in America.

In fact, assassination was a tactic utitlized since the birth of Israel and even before-- one major reason why Yassir Arafat remained the leader of the Palestinians was because he survived political assassination when many of his rivals did not.

Munich may have given the clearest, easiest to understand reason for targetting terrorists and leaders, but the practice started in the 1940s and continues to this day. It has not been a resounding success in terms of peace, but in terms of reducing the Palestinian leadership to its weakest elements, it has succeeded.
posted by cell divide at 10:09 AM on December 27, 2005


Furtive,

I imagine Spielberg thought as much, but of course one would necessarily need to go back even further than the settling of Palestine to give sufficient context, would they not. I saw Munich last Friday and would agree with Dios, verbatim.
posted by docpops at 10:11 AM on December 27, 2005


Football Bat - long time since I looked at this. It's out there in dribs and drabs - for psy ops try searching for Colin Wallace. A lot of the story was covered by a left zine called Lobster. There's also a book, by Paul Foot, called 'Who Framed Colin Wallace?' On British LIO operatives as bank robbers, search for Littlejohn brothers. These should give you some keywords for other searches.
posted by carter at 10:35 AM on December 27, 2005


(more spoilers)

cell divide -- the killing of Kamal Nasser, with a cameo of Ehud Barak is part of the film.

The film is shot entirely from the Israeli point-of-view; and there is some discussion about the cycle of violence, and how the Palestinians used Munich to retaliate for the murder of their people, who were killed by Israelis avenging terrorist acts, acts perpetrated by Palestinians who needed to avenge the bombings of ... ad nauseum

But in general, the motivation is glossed over because the participants choose to repress it; which is part of the film's point. The only way you can commit these atrocious acts is to be fully committed to your cause, and a requisite of that is not to question the motivations of your targets or view them as human beings. There is some doubt about the guilt of their quarry and the value of the intelligence that has made these Arabs into targets, but this is pushed aside when it is time to do the job.

Also, there's hardly any dialogue between the Mossad agents and their targets, and the only meaningful exchange that occurs happens purely through machination and contrivance. However, this isn't to say there isn't any introspection or guilt on their consciences. On the contrary, the film is all about how these unanswered questions refuse to go away and merely act as an anchor upon your soul; keeping you frozen in a dark, terrible place until you figure out a way to cut it loose.
posted by bl1nk at 10:41 AM on December 27, 2005


Cheers, carter.
posted by Football Bat at 10:42 AM on December 27, 2005


I have not seen the film so will not comment upon it. However, what seems to be said here is representative of differing perspectives that exist not just in the middle East but in many other countries: you hurt me, I hurt you back till you get the lesson. Or: you hurt me but we can not stop this cycle of violence by mere hitting back so let us find another way.
Thus the film maker would seem to align himself with the Israeli Left rather than their Right politically.

As for assassinations, where do you think the word "assassin" comes from? not the Palestinian Israel conflict but well before it.
posted by Postroad at 10:53 AM on December 27, 2005


Bl1nk, so basically it comes down to not even revenge but a mindless repetition due to not knowing how to stop it. You killed mine, so I must kill yours, it is the way of things, always has been always will be.

At least one of those two sides needs to grow up someday, I fear it will end up being the side that can no longer defend itself.
posted by Elim at 10:56 AM on December 27, 2005


I think that it's also to do with how you dress up the 'mindless killing' in world opinion. It's obviously preferable to be seen to be on the side of civilized 'justice' rather than primitive 'revenge.' (I also have not seen the film but am intrigued by the discussions it raises and plan to go soon).
posted by carter at 11:09 AM on December 27, 2005


Elim, I think the anti-Black September operations were the exact opposite of what you say.

They were explicitly designed to be an exceptional response, a policing of a respectable outer boundary of conduct, which the murders of the athletes were viewed to have transgressed.

In that sense, they succeeded. Arafat rather famously disbanded Black September, and Israelis abroad, to say the nothing of Israeli Olympians, have been largely immune from attack ever since -- not out of charity, but out of (well-supported) fear. (Acts like the Entebbe hijacking weren't carried out by Palestinians.)

For its part, Israel has abided by its own rather clear ranking of the offensiveness (and appropriate response) of attacks. Attacks on military targets in the West Bank and Gaza aren't treated as terrorism at all, while attacks across the 1948 boundaries upon civilians are treated as grossly terroristic invitations to the assassination of their authors. The responses to acts in between those extremes receive appropriate graduated responses.
posted by MattD at 11:09 AM on December 27, 2005


Interesting stuff.
posted by caddis at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2005


Good thread.
posted by lodurr at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2005


perhaps, But, (and I'm going off the film "Sword of Gideon" here not "Munich") the fight between Arab and Jewish Palestine still continues, and Although Israelis are safer abroad than they were, they still feel terror in their own country, (Strange the way THAT worked out).

Wow Compare the US to Israel in that regard...
We fear outside our country, they fear inside? Hmmm.

Back on track... While the response probably (almost certainly) defined the rules of engagement, it did little to earn Israel a sense of international honor.

"Battle not with monsters, lest you become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” "
posted by Elim at 11:43 AM on December 27, 2005


Great thread.
posted by unreason at 11:43 AM on December 27, 2005


...Israel a bit of international honor i meant
posted by Elim at 11:47 AM on December 27, 2005


(more spoilers)

I saw the film yesterday and I have to come to the same conclusion that bl1nk makes "...do not believe that the map is your home. Your home is not the land of forefathers long since dead, but it is wherever your loved ones sleep; and where you can be safe."

I certainly feel that is the conclusion that Avner reaches at the end of the film. He is aware of the total psychological theft of his soul by his country. If has any chance of recovering himself, it is his family. I think that Avner's words earlier in the film when he tells his wife in the film that she is his home is the only answer one can give to violence and its repercussions.
posted by sierray at 12:03 PM on December 27, 2005


as others have pointed out, the definitive film on the Munich massacre has already been made: "One Day In September". Spielberg then, could only work on the aftermath -- too bad he is not a political artist (and then unable to actually make a political film).
and he clearly is too much of a humanitarian -- or a liberal, or both -- to simply shoot a triggerhappy revenge movie. which, by the way, would be B-movie fare, much beneath his Hollywood status. The ideal "Munich" would have been something Cormanesque like a "Rolling Thunder" meets "The Dirty Dozen" -- entertaining as fuck, and -- by necessity -- blissfully uninterested in the political implications and shot by a just-the-facts-ma'am director like Don Siegel or the early Eastwood.

what Spielberg gave us, in the end, is a wishy-washy story of how cool it is to spare the occasional girl's life while in the pursuit of divine justice. making sure not to make the Ay-rabs look too bad in the process
posted by matteo at 12:24 PM on December 27, 2005


I need to know before I see this, Does he put his damn Happy ending book-end on this too? that always annoys me about his story, he seems to be afraid to let the goodguys just lose when the story almost demands it.

"Minority Report" and "Saving Private Ryan", would have been SOOOO much better with the ambiguous ending, as well as "A.I."
posted by Elim at 12:34 PM on December 27, 2005


I agree; he often has to have a moment of rescue/redemption at the end of his narratives. An ambiguous Spielberg film would be much more interesting.
posted by carter at 12:41 PM on December 27, 2005


erations.com/Counterterrorism/operation_wrath_of_god.html
widowsof those killed athletes reponse to film: http://tinyurl.com/caco9

Mossad says the assissinations deterrence not vengeance:
http://sify.com/movies/hollywood/fullstory.php?id=14047151
posted by Postroad at 12:44 PM on December 27, 2005


I saw "Munich" a few days ago and, in my opinion, the film ends not on a theme of redemption or rescue but rather one of confusion, ambiguity, and reflection.
posted by TheNakedPixel at 12:45 PM on December 27, 2005


"too bad he is not a political artist (and then unable to actually make a political film). "

Which is good, because political films, as a general rule, suck.
posted by falameufilho at 12:46 PM on December 27, 2005


(obligatory spoilers warning)

mild spoiler: Elim -- if you leave after Avner and Ephraim (Eric Bana and Geoffrey Rush) part company in Israel, where Avner essentially tells his handler that he's not coming back and the Mossad can go F' themselves, then you can leave with a pretty good movie. You'll miss a final confrontation meditating on the conflicting loyalties between family and state; but you have to sit through some really bad sex to get there. And the point will have been hammered pretty thoroughly throughout the movie.

And nobody wants to watch bad sex.

deeper spoiler: the ending is kind of problematic, though nowhere near as poor as Spielberg's past work (AI, to me, tops the three as a good film ruined by an awful ending)

As I mentioned previously, the film's themes revolve around the importance of family and home, as well as how being a murderer inflicts a catastrophic cost on your conscience, regardless of the righteousness of your cause. The only source for redemption, according to the film, comes from one's family.

and, apparently, one step on that path is to have terrible, cathartic sex with your wife.

If the movie ended there, I would've thought that it was worse than AI. However, Spielberg, develops the thread a bit further, and shows that while Avner has preserved the love of his family, their safety is forever compromised; because he is now being hunted himself, enmeshed as he is in the cycle of violence.

So while he's made a step towards redemption, he isn't there yet. Instead, the film ends with the dilemma that even if Avner considers his family to be his all, if he rejects his nation, he rejects the protection that they bring and exposes himself to the anarchy of the world. So, he makes a choice between protecting his family at a cost of becoming a monster or preserving his integrity while forsaking safety; which is a choice that we all make when confronting terror and choosing whether to end or perpetuate the cycle.
posted by bl1nk at 1:11 PM on December 27, 2005


Munich mastermind spurns Speilburg call for reconciliation etc and says he would do it again
http://tinyurl.com/cfgwo
posted by Postroad at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2005


it's your home is your family; and your home is your all. Distrust governments and their intentions. Be loyal, but do not confuse your state with your family. Do not believe that every action you do for the good of your nation is one that will also benefit your core social nucleus. Similarly, do not believe that the map is your home. Your home is not the land of forefathers long since dead, but it is wherever your loved ones sleep; and where you can be safe.

I agree that this is part of the point of the film. Also, I agree the sex scenes are atrociously bad, and I'm not sure what purpose they serve in the greater context of the movie. Avner definetly ends the film in a conundrum, and he knows it -- he doesn't feel safe because of the enemies he's made on Israel's behalf, but he's not down with the Israeli government, either. I think Spielburg went to a lot of trouble to show several points of view, but to do it without it being preachy -- Avner's mother says something to the effect of her people have suffered so much and that this homeland is worth anything to them, but then the Palestinian guy in Greece says something similar about homeland to Avner as well. I don't know. I thought it was well done, if not spectacularly so, and certainly could have been a lot worse. I was expecting schmaltz and didn't really get any at all.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:48 PM on December 27, 2005


The film about Munich is exagerated and makes lot of stuff up to enhance the story, but there is a conspiracy feel to the whole thing...
posted by milos83 at 2:53 PM on December 27, 2005


The sex scene was the worst part of the movie. But the final scene, with the Manhattan skyline in the background, was good.

If that sex scene had been cut, it would be a great film. As it is, it's very strong, but flawed.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 6:41 PM on December 27, 2005


Journalist Aaron Klein of Time, who went directly to the Mossad and military intelligence officers who were involved in the reprisals, and ended up speaking with more than 50 of them says, "the true story is far from what you see in the movie." (free reg. required)
posted by semmi at 6:48 PM on December 27, 2005


Which is good, because political films, as a general rule, suck.

the always awesome FilmBrain makes the point much better than I could ever do:
Spielberg does do a decent job of portraying the Palestinian terrorists as human, though they don't have a lot to do in the film other than smile, offer a cigarette or two, and blow up. In one extremely contrived sequence, Avner and his team find themselves sharing a house in Greece with a group of PLO members. While the scene does include a somewhat interesting (albeit simplistic) ideological conversation, it's ruined by a radio showdown that ends with the two groups learning about the healing power of Al Green.

As the body count increases, so does Avner's doubt and paranoia. Fleeing to Brooklyn (where his wife and baby daughter live) he exorcises his Munich demons by imagining the execution of the athletes while he has aggressive sex with his wife. With buckets of sweat flying off his body (in slow motion, naturally), his orgasmic thrusts are perfectly synchronized with the murders. To call the scene ham-fisted would be an understatement, though Spielberg saves his most offensive, most manipulative shot for the very end, where he clobbers you over the head just in case you didn't get it for the last two and half hours. Invoking 9/11 to make a point is an even cheaper tactic than threatening to blow up a little Arab girl.

Munich is neither fish nor flesh. It has the makings of an interesting political thriller, but instead of giving us a Z or Day of the Jackal, Spielberg felt he could both entertain and bring peace to the Middle East. As a meditation on vengeance, the problems of terrorism/counter-terrorism, and the Israel-Palestine situation, it is substantially lacking in original ideas, and its moral/ethical discussions never rise above the painfully obvious. Its attempt at even-handedness, to not reduce matters to black and white issues, is ultimately its downfall, for what we are left with is a dull grey. Had Spielberg been brave enough to actually take a position, we might have wound up with something a bit meatier than this obvious bit of Oscar-bait. Art will never solve the world's political problems, and neither will Steven Spielberg's ego., ,
posted by matteo at 6:26 AM on December 28, 2005


FilmBrain's got it. Saw the film last night and thought it was severly lacking a further editing. The event is tragic and stands to move audiences without adding slow-motion and nudity. As a comentary on the kind of character it takes to work clandestine ops, I prefer Spy Game. bleh.
posted by creeptick at 10:47 AM on December 28, 2005


carter -The problem with deep-cover autonomous LIO teams is that they are, well, autonomous. In Northern Ireland this led to battles between MI5 and MI6, and to Army intelligence cells setting up fake terrorist gangs, robbing banks, running prostitution rackets at childrens' homes, sabotaging other intelligence services' operations, getting involved in racketeering and organized crime, setting up assassinations/murders, etc.

Please forgive me for the slight derail but I don't see evidence in your link for all of the statements you've made there. Whilst British Intelligence (SS/SIS/Special Branch/Military Intelligence) all ran operations in N.I. I think you'd be very hard pressed to provide evidence for some of what you've suggested above. I have both first and second hand knowledge of some of the dodgy shit done over there and I am not aware of some of what you've suggested (could be a failure on my part - I would happily accept it if you could provide me with a little more information).

Just so you know - I don't doubt for a second that the intelligence services were involved in passing on information to loyalist paramilitaries that resulted in Republicans being murdered. It's pretty much common knowledge that this took place - I'm referring more to the accusations of setting up terrorist gangs and bank robbing. As far as sabotaging other groups' intelligence ops - that's no surprise when you have six or seven groups all working to the same purpose without knowledge of the others.
posted by longbaugh at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2005


I think you'd be very hard pressed to provide evidence for some of what you've suggested above.

Well that's true actually; apologies. I gave the links so that Football Bat could go and check out some themes and then go and do his/her own research. Most of the stuff related to this was published in pre-Internet days and so while some it is still around, it hasn't necessarily migrated to the Internet. Further, some of it is produced by conspiracy theorists, axe-grinders, etc. I also got some of it from working on building sites in the UK in the 80s with ex-squaddies, and then going drinking with them. But you can't *trust* any of these sources (especially twenty-year-old pub conversations). I suppose some kind of definitive account might emerge in 50 years or so ...

Anyway: in relation to prostitution rackets at childrens homes - see the Kincora Childrens Home scandal - I think the idea was to obtain material to blackmail loyalist politicians? And on robbing banks - see the Littlejohn brothers, above. Re. racketeering - both the Republican and Loyalist gangs ran drug/protection rackets for income; and elements in the security services ran a protection tax on the gangs (well, so someone told me).

So, uhm, what parts *can* you vouch for ;)
posted by carter at 8:44 PM on December 28, 2005


I also got some of it from working on building sites in the UK in the 80s with ex-squaddies, and then going drinking with them.

This is probably the closest you will come to the truth. It's worth keeping in mind that many ex-squaddies met in pubs are considerable pork-pie generators and will happily tell you any old shit if it gets them a free drink. I've lost count of the number of ex-"S.A.S. troopers" I've met in pubs and most of them are just sad bastards who like to watch Ultimate Force and fap away to Andy McNab novels.

Actual events I can't really tell you either here or via email as I still signed up to the O.S.A. and can therefore be proper bollixed if found out. I can certainly make the occasional wink however if you're on the right track. I also keep in touch with a number of friends who work in the business who occasionally drop an unverifiable tale in my lap. Suffice to say that there is very little to be proud of in Northern Ireland if you were working intelligence.
posted by longbaugh at 7:54 AM on December 29, 2005


p.s. really small text is invisible to the British Intelligence services. I hope.
posted by longbaugh at 8:04 AM on December 29, 2005


I guess you could say, "Very few fires, but plenty of smoke." I forgot to mention that my perception of NI was very much filtered through subsequent relevations concerning NATO's Operation Gladio and the 'strategy of tension' (another murky area; I think Italian journos, for instance, take this much more seriously than UK journos).

FWIW I remember first hearing about Gladio in several late night spots on BBC 2's Newsnight - which included the strange offhand comment from someone that when Europeans went on Gladio training courses, they sometimes (often?) went to facilities in Northern Ireland.
posted by carter at 8:42 AM on December 29, 2005


“The problem in Northern Ireland (as it is in Spielberg's film) was at what point do you become that which you abhor?” - posted by carter

I’ve always found Israels countering fanatacism with greater fanatacism a bit dubious.
Interesting post.

“The disconnect occurs when the leadership attempts to manage the tactical aspects of the operation to ensure peripheral political objectives such as media exploitation and or reelection.”

Gospel. I’m glad he brought up Panama and wet work.

carter - RAF Macrahanish in Scotland, too.(beautiful golf course btw)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:21 PM on December 29, 2005


"Minority Report" and "Saving Private Ryan", would have been SOOOO much better with the ambiguous ending, as well as "A.I."

To derail a bit, Minority Report actually has an extremely ambiguous ending; it's just sort of subtle. Notice that the tone of the film changes (and voice-over narration starts) right after Cruise gets put into the suspended-animation prison. He's hallucinating the happy ending, while in the real world Max von Sydow wins.
posted by COBRA! at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2005


Great post, dios.

Just got back from seeing the movie. I was wondering why the team used so many different assassination methods. The Calahan paper makes it clear:

The Mossad's intent was to send a message with every assassination that PLO terrorists could not hide from Israel under any circumstances. [Ephraim] wanted the team to be imaginative and strike in creative ways. In this vein, the terrorists would know that they had been "touched." If the assassinations occurred while the terrorist leaders operated within their own security nets, it would send a clear message that they would never feel safe.

Kind of like a gangland war. An alternative and perhaps less morally questionable strategy, mentioned in the movie, would have been to abduct and prosecute the Black September leaders (like Eichmann) instead of assassinating them.

The Forward article suggests that the team's soul-searching was largely an invention of the movie, although according to the Calahan paper, Avner did become disillusioned with Mossad.
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 PM on January 1, 2006


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