Attica & Munich: A tale of two SWAT teams
I was watching "Gray's Anatomy" on TV tonight and during the commercial break there was an ad for the new Steven Spielberg film based on the 1972 Munich Olympic hostage crisis wherein "eleven Israeli athletes were murdered" -- presumedly by the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Because I usually try to defend the cause of Palestinian freedom, I decided that I had better read up on what happened in Munich because one never wants to go around defending cold-blooded murderers no matter who they are. How can one condemn George Bush for killing so many people in Fallugah but let similar Palestinian behavior slide? One cannot. Killing is bad, no matter who does it.
So I Googled the massacre in Munich and this is what I found out: German police opened fire on the kidnappers and the hostages. Up to nine of the eleven Israeli athletes were "murdered" -- not by the hostage-takers but by the "rescue" squad. The Hebrew daily "Yedioth Ahronoth" even went so far as to state that all eleven of the athletes were killed by German snipers.
Now why does that sound familiar? Hummm....
Isn't that what happened during the 1971 Attica prison hostage crisis too? Attica guards opened fire on the kidnappers and the hostages. The hostages in Attica were also "murdered" -- not by the hostage-takers but by the "rescue" squad. And the New York Times immediately reported that the throats of all the hostages had been slashed by the prisoners.
Before the 1972 hostage crisis, Palestinians in Palestine got a rotten deal. Violently pushed to extremes, they reacted violently. Before the 1971 hostage crisis, Attica prisoners in Attica got a rotten deal. Violently pushed to extremes, they reacted violently too. In both cases, violence was answered by violence. That's obvious. But what is important here in both cases -- and what we can hopefully can learn from -- is the abysmal failure of the policy of answering layers and layers of violence with yet even MORE violence.
In Attica, according to Tom Wicker, it was a "turkey shoot". Untrained and unsupervised guards opened fire on both the prisoners and the hostages.
The same thing happened in Munich.
In both cases, the crisis was immediately escalated by the people in charge of ending the crisis. In both cases, killing people was too quickly chosen as the only solution. Too quickly, things were allowed to go too far. So what have we learned here boys and girls? That the use of force as the only solution to a problem CAN CAUSE THE PROBLEM TO GET WORSE.
It has been in every newspaper recently that the Bush bureaucracy has been playing fast and loose with violence, humiliation, torture all over the world. They have been violently pushing far too many people to far too many extremes. And let us hope that this over-the-top use of force in every situation isn't going to come back to haunt us too.
In international relations as well as in situations like Attica and Munich, you gotta be careful where you point that gun.