- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

On Sept. 5, 1972, the Olympic Games in Munich became the scene of a horrifying tragedy: 11 Israeli athletes were assassinated by a Palestinian terrorist group which called itself "Black September," a covert unit of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Could such an atrocity happen again? Yes. The odds are high it could happen at the 2004 Olympic Games with this difference: This time the target would be American athletes. Incredible?
In Greece, scene of the 2004 Olympics, assassinations of an American diplomat, three American military officers, and the wounding with intent to kill of 30 U.S. officials has occurred over the last 25 years. Even more incredible is that during this reign of terror, there have been no arrests, no suspects, no convictions, no serious police investigations, zilch. The Greek government has done nothing yes, nothing to apprehend the criminals, let alone to identify them. In Greece, assassination of Americans has become established routine. Most recently terrorists bombarded the U.S. Embassy in central Athens and assassinated the British defense attache. Earlier, attempts on the lives of the Dutch and German ambassadors were made. No arrests, no suspects, no convictions, no serious investigations.
Nor are Greek citizens immune from the criminality of "November 17" as the terrorists call themselves to commemorate the suppression of a student uprising by an earlier military dictatorship that took power in 1967. "November 17," in scores of operations, has killed a leading parliamentarian and wounded others, attempted to kill Greek Cabinet members, murdered or mutilated diplomats, judges, industrialists, bankers and physicians. Last year there were 100 political bombings. "November 17" uses high explosives, mortars and rocket grenades, mostly stolen from Greek police and military arsenals. Same story: no arrests, no suspects, no convictions, no serious investigations.
This terrorist scorecard has been compiled by Wayne Merry, onetime State and Pentagon official, and published in an article in the Weekly Standard titled, "Where terrorists run free." Mr. Merry worked at the U.S. Embassy in Athens for three years, trying in vain to get the Greek government to do something about this reign of terrorism.
"The chances the terrorists will be caught," he writes, "are very low, but the chances for more American victims are high."
Mr. Merry says the immunity of "November 17" is the result of political blackmail of the present government. The ruling socialist Pasok Party "fears exposure of its own prior links with November 17" if terrorists were arrested and tried. Exempt from the normal sanctions in a democratic society against murder, "November 17" has "recruited a younger generation of killers, expanded their weaponry, tactics, and targets, and are supremely contemptuous of Greek law enforcement," he writes. The U.S. spends more money protecting embassy and consular personnel in Athens, Mr. Merry has told a House Judiciary subcommittee, than anywhere else on Earth.
Former President Clinton visited Athens in late 1999 but, says Mr. Merry, "neglected even to raise the unpleasant topic of terrorism, giving Greek leaders precisely the message they wanted. Many senators and congressmen publicly wrap themselves in the POW/MIA flag, but they do not demand justice for Americans killed in the line of duty in Athens."
Those Americans included: Richard Welch, a CIA officer, gunned down in 1975 in front of his wife on their way home from a Christmas party, two U.S. Navy captains, George Tsantes in 1983 and William Nordeen in 1988 and Air Force Sgt. Ronald Stewart in 1991. So far no arrests, no suspects, no convictions, no serious investigations.
We are properly concerned that China, guilty of genocide in Tibet and the massacre in 1989 of its citizens in Tiananmen Square, is now seeking the 2008 Olympic Games. Shouldnt there be even greater concern about the Greek governments cowardice in confronting the November 17 criminals? What gives Athens its immunity? Will the Bush administration follow the Clinton line or will it examine shifting the Olympics to another country where Americans and other visitors can feel safe?

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution Research Fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide