A dairy of details
By Times Staff
Published February 27, 2006
Here are some excerpts from Michael Adams' journal on his visit to Jordan in 1970 as a mediator in the Black September crisis:
Tuesday, Sept. 8
In flight, London to Beirut
An odd venture this, and I don't have high hopes of its outcome - but it seems worth trying.
The day before yesterday, Sunday, Palestinian guerillas of the Popular Front mounted their biggest hijack operation. . . .
One would hesitate to present such a grotesque situation in a film scenario - and yet it's true, and I wish I could feel certain that the guerillas would shrink from carrying out their threat. At all events, rather than wait and see, I am flying to Amman with the idea of getting to see George Habash or whoever is in charge of the Popular Front's operation, and trying to talk him out of it. I don't expect to change his mind but I think he will hear me out and at least it may be possible to gain a little time or to act as some sort of go-between. One of the things that worries me most is that it is hard to see what channel of communication there can be between the guerillas and the western embassies. Neither trusts the other, but I hope both will trust me and that is the slender basis for my decision to come and try my luck.
Monday, Sept. 14, 7:30 a.m.
I don't know how I shall get along in the unfamiliar role of mediator, but it will be interesting to try. I am not sure which side I need to watch more carefully, the PFLP - who will probably be the more obvious in their tactics - or the British and other Western governments - who will almost certainly be the most devious. I am going to try to push them all to come to an agreement before the end of today, though I suppose that is unlikely. But speed is essential if some unforeseen hazard is not to disrupt everything - and far too much time has been lost already.
Friday, Sept. 18, 6:30 a.m.
The heaviest fighting so far round the hotel has been going on since dawn - and before that I had been jolted out of my sleep (back on the floor and behind my barricade of course) by an enormous explosion which seemed close by. I've no idea what it was, but after that there were similar explosions in distant parts of the town.
Now it is really noisy and this flimsy annex shakes. There is a man with an automatic rifle outside my window and I only hope he doesn't invite a rocket from someone (and there are plenty going about) as he and I would go together . . . I notice my hand is shaking and to tell the truth I think we really are in some danger now.
Tuesday, Sept. 22, 1:30 p.m.
(When civil war broke out, the released hostages and journalists covering the hijacking were trapped on the front lines in the InterContinental Hotel. Adams was elected by the journalists to head a committee to organize guests, rationing food and helping with evacuations.)
It has been a surprise to me to realize what an influence I have been able to exert, and I hope I am doing the right thing in deciding to see this through. The difference in the hotel since we took matters in hand has been startling: people cooperate and are more cheerful, keep the place clean, and have given me the enormous encouragement of feeling that it has all been worthwhile. This old bullet-ridden, shattered InterContinental Hotel would by now have been a stinking wreck, with blocked lavatories and uncleared rubbish spreading disease to add to the hazard of living in the middle of a civil war. Instead it has been for the past two or three days a dilapidated and dangerous, but also rather a proud, refuge.
Thursday, Sept. 24, 2 p.m.
Descending to Nicosia
So this is how it ends for me - in a planeload of howling babies and cheerful, NAAFI style, English families. Some of them are concerned, and all showed an admirable unconcern as our convoy negotiated the difficult stretch on the way to the airport. But my place is not with them and I dearly wish I could have stayed in Amman to see the thing through.