Dec 21, 2005

Munich: It's black and white, really

Kate Wright looks at Steven Spielberg's Munich and rather unnecessarily complicates the issue.

As Wright points out, Spielberg's "prayer of peace" continues the "cycle of violence" narrative by portraying the Israeli response to the slaughter at the 1972 Olympics as a revenge tragedy. In fact, the assault at Munich was an unprovoked act of war. And no nation can survive if it allows itself to be attacked without responding. September 11 was such an act as was Pearl Harbor; the only difference being that at Munich and on September 11 the attack did not come from a sovereign nation.

The situation at Munich was complicated by the fact that it took place on foreign soil. Munich was a debacle from beginning to end: The West German government refused to allow the Israelis to send in their own hostage rescue team. Then the German rescue team, fearful for their lives, refused to conduct the rescue. Afterwards, the West German authorities allowed the Palestinians they managed to capture to go free.

Having been let down by the German government, the Israelis were forced to respond. And respond they did: Going after the perpetrators one by one.

Spielberg, seeking to add much-vaunted nuance to the story, has been quoted as saying that he wanted to add a human dimension to the story:
By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today
In fact, the agents assigned to perform the task have never expressed doubts about their mission, in spite of mistakes made during the course of that mission.

In times of war men are called up to do horrible things, and leaders are faced with making unpleasant decisions. That's the price of survival.

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