Terrorism takes the world stage

September 5, 2002 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Terrorism takes the world stage
30 years ago today, armed terrorists took 11 Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympics. Did anyone see this past weekend's ABC News documentary on it? The Academy Award winning film? This is an utterly fascinating story, in my opinion. Even today, people are puzzling over just how much went wrong.
posted by Gilbert (8 comments total)
The film One Day in September is heartbreaking. Everything went wrong. The hostages never stood a chance.
posted by dglynn at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2002

The film was amazing. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the event. However, it left out a lot of what made the book really interesting - while it hints that the Germans knowingly botched the operation, the book takes the Genscher government far more to task for its failure. And it covers Operation Wrath of God, which was a textbook example of special operations planning and bloody justice, the sort of thing you usually only see in movies. Seriously: systematically hunting down and killing every single terrorist involved, and - I think - many of their families as well. Check out both.
posted by risenc at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2002

Sorry to post twice in a row, but the other amazing thing about the film is the sports announcers-cum-newscasters. Howard Cosell, used to saying things like "and Guerrero steps up to the bat," finds himself describing a hostage situation. And Jim McKay - the guy proves he could have been another Walter Kronkite, a great moral voice in TV news. I'm not sure the film would be half as good without the two of them,
posted by risenc at 10:07 AM on September 5, 2002

risenc, which book do you mean?
posted by shoos at 10:15 AM on September 5, 2002

I've read the book and seen the film. The two most amazing moments for me were finding out that the Germans didn't stop a TV crew filming when the special forces went into the apartments - the terrorists were watching the whole thing on TV - and the accusation that the authorities set up the final hijack and escape because they didn't want the problem on German soil. Truly shocking.
posted by Summer at 10:23 AM on September 5, 2002

the terrorists were watching the whole thing on TV

In fact, the special forces called off one attack because the terrorists could see them on TV sneaking across the roof toward the apartment the terrorists had occupied.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:57 AM on September 5, 2002

Actually, the group of people we're all referring to as "special forces" were no such thing. According to the film, the majority of this team were volunteers taken from the Munich police force. That's only one of the huge mistakes made by the Germans, including having snipers with no gun sights, forgetting to get some armored cars to the airport in advance, and not having to foresight to at least give their ambush team some freaking walkie talkies. If I recall, at least one of the German snipers killed at the airport was gunned down by his own people.
posted by Gilbert at 11:35 AM on September 5, 2002

I didn't know until I saw the ABC piece that the airport assault had snipers facing each other with the choppers in the middle. Yes, just like Sean Bean's dumb-ass setup in Ronin.

It's worth noting that the Germans learned from this experience, and as a direct result founded GSG-9, one of the first elite counter-terrorist police forces, and to this day considered one of the best.

risenc: Interesting observation. To this day, some of the best live coverage I've ever seen was the night of the Atlanta Olympics bombing. The sports crew who was on duty did just fine ... until they woke up the news guys and shoved them in front of cameras. Then you got narrative arcs cheap moralizing, all from people who clearly didn't know a thing, but couldn't dare admit it. The sports guys, on the other hand, had no such reputation to protect, and handled it factually. If they didn't know something, they said so.

I've often thought TV news could learn a lot from those couple of hours.
posted by dhartung at 4:17 PM on September 5, 2002

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