Monday, June 4, 2007

Terrorism, the old-fashioned kind

There's a good slideshow (with German captions) summarizing the history of the Rote-Armee-Fraktion (RAF), aka, the "Baader-Meinhof gang", Germany's best-known domestic terrorist group from 1970-1998, in Die Opfer, die Täter, der Terror Süddeutsche Zeitung 01.06.07.   The RAF is a good reminder that "terrorism" is a technique of violence and warfare, not a movement or an ideology in itself.

The RAF is getting retrospective stories in the German press for several reasons: the 40th anniversary of
the death of Benno Ohnesorg, killed by police in a demonstration in (West) Berlin against the visiting Shah of Iran on 06/03/67, a key event in the growth of radical protest in Germany; the 30th anniversary of 1977's "German Autumn" series of RAF attacks, which were hyped hysterically by the outlets of the rightwing Springer press; the release from prison of Brigitte Mohnhaupt in March of this year after more than two decades; and, the public discussion of the possible release from pirson of Christian Klar, about whose conviction new questions have recently become public in Der Spiegel about possible prosecutorial misconduct.

Klar, along with
Birgit Hogefeld and Eva Haule-Frimpong, are the only three remaining RAF prisoners in Germany.

The group
formally dissolved itself in 1998.

For more on Benno Ohnesorg's death and the political significance it had at the time, see
Polizeipräsident legt Kranz für Ohnesorg nieder von Oliver Das Gupta Süddeutsche Zeitung 02.06.07, and especially Der Tag, der die Republik veränderte von Volker Ullrich (a leading German historian) Die Zeit 17.05.07.

The closest American equivalent of the RAF was probably the Weather Underground, who saw themselves as a similar organization. The RAF, though, carried out kidnappings and assassinations. The Weather Underground didn't do those kinds of actions, though they did plant bombs in buildings considered to be sympathetic targets. So far as I'm aware, only one bombing possibly related to that group killed someone in a building. Three of the group's members blew themselves upaccidentally while building bombs in a townhouse in 1970. One of their most daring and famous actions was springing LSD guru Timothy Leary from prison that same year.

The FBI Web site has articles on the latter group. Obviously, the FBI is not an entirely disintered group when it comes to that subject. The articles include:

1975 Terrorism Flashback: State Department Bombing 01/29/04 (The paragraph called "The Chase" is pretty garbled.)

Weather Underground Organization (Weatherman), a 1976 official FBI Chicago Field Office report of 420 pages. Page 3 of this report (in the Part 1a) link show some of the FBI obsessions of the time. Though the Weather Underground, like its European counterparts, held the orthodox Communist Parties of the time as hopelessly "revisionist" and ineffective or worse, just on that first introductory page, we get citations about the American Communist Party ("CPUSA", in FBI jargon) and even Whittaker Chambers' book Witness, one of the favorite conservative books of the 1950s and, I suppose, even to this day.

Here are some reviews of the well-regarded documentary about the group, titled "The Weather Underground".

The Weather Underground by Rob Nelson Mother Jones Mar/Apr 2003

Notes From the Underground by David Greenberg Slate 06/06/03

For 11 years, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers were on the run from the FBI. In the film 'The Weather Underground,' the anti-war activists explain why they fought the law - and why they have no regrets by Edward Guthmann San Francisco Chronicle 07/21/03

When terrorism was cool by Andrew O'Hehir Salon 06/07/03. O'Hehir writes:
As misguided and counterproductive as the Weather Underground's activities may have been, after the townhouse bombing [1970] the group never again planned attacks against human beings. Their post-1970 bombings were symbolic in nature and happened at night when the buildings were empty. For all the vitriol heaped on the Weather Underground by other leftists - and especially by ex-leftist neocons like David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh - it never killed or injured anyone except its own members. (In this regard, it's striking that right-wingers routinely employ the excesses of Weatherman to paint the entire left as anti-American terrorist sympathizers, while the left is either too civil or too cowardly to use the hateful acts of Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph and James Kopp to attack conservatives in general.)
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schoolmarm1973 said...

So, Bruce, how many languages do you speak, exactly?

Schoolmarm Jeanne from Caray! Caray!

schoolmarm1973 said...

So, Bruce, how many languages do you speak, exactly?

Schoolmarm Jeanne from Caray! Caray!

bmiller224 said...

I can handle German and Spanish.  I wish I could develop and obsession with studying grammar.  Unfortunately, I don't have any satellite channel to get German telenovelas!

schoolmarm1973 said...

Sorry about the double post there.  ¡Qué casualidad!  Those are my two (in addition to being a fluent ASL user, since I've worked with deaf children for the past 35 years).  Mein Deutsch ist autodidactig.  I have some fabulous German CDs, one in particular that I listen to while I drive.  My brother lives in Frankfurt area and I go there often enough.  I have several German friends.  All that gives me a pretty decent accent though my vocab is weak.  I listen to Germany news on SCOLA as often as I can, too.  

By the way, I'm glad you're popping in at C! C!