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    Default France's war in Algeria: telling the story

    10 Dec. London Times op-ed - A Lesson About Torture, Half Century On.

    ...if Europeans who are worried about America’s treatment of Muslims wish to assess the true worth of mass torture in a time of terror, the atrocities committed by the French in Algeria between 1954 and the country’s independence in 1962 bear close examination.

    France had far grander aims in Algeria than the United States has in Iraq. She intended to stay indefinitely in a country she maintained was actually part of France. In Algiers, French pieds noirs constituted the majority. Furthermore, the eight-year Algerian war was far bloodier. At least a third of a million died in it.

    Yet, the ultimate French defeat did not appear inevitable when the insurgency began. In 1957, the so-called Battle of Algiers was decisively won and the insurgent FLN terrorist campaign was severely curtailed. This was achieved by a variety of tough measures directed at seizing control of the Casbah. Thousands of Arab youths were taken away for interrogation. Around 3,000 never re-emerged...

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    I don't know if I am breaking some protocol by posting a link, but I figured since it pertained to the article above it might be useful.

    ...In Morocco in 1942, an air force officer, Captain Delmas, had warned Paul Aussaresses: "Do you know what you risk in entering the special services?"

    "Yes, my captain, I risk being killed."

    "My poor sir, when you are killed, you are relieved, because you may be tortured before you are blown away. Torture, you see, is less merciful than death."

    Captain Paul Aussaresses subsequently was briefed by the Chief of Police of Algiers, in 1955.

    "Imagine for an instant that you are opposed to the concept of torture and you arrest someone who is clearly implicated in the preparation of a terrorist attack. The suspect refuses to talk. You do not insist. A particularly murderous attack is launched. What will you say to the parents of the victims, to the parents of an infant, for example, mutilated by the bomb to justify the fact that you did not utilize all means to make the suspect talk?"

    "I would not like to find myself in such a situation,” Aussaresses responded.

    "Yes, but conduct yourself always as if you will, and you will see which is the most difficult: to torture a confirmed terrorist or explain to the parents of the victims that it is better to allow dozens of innocents to die, than to make one who is culpable suffer."

    After a moment of meditation, Aussaresses cast aside his last reservations, concluding that no one had the right to judge him, even if his responsibilities forced him to conduct disagreeable actions, and he would never have any regrets.

    Aussaresses, then 35 years old, was the intelligence official in charge of liquidating the Front Liberation Nationale (FLN). The FLN was conducting a savage insurrection that targeted the French colonists (Pied Noir) in Algeria. Many Pied Noir had already been terrorized, assassinated, or mutilated. ...
    http://www.military.com/NewContent/0...orture,00.html

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    Ensure you get the full lesson, and not just selective aspects.

    The issue of torture at that time caused huge fissures in the French Army. One general and several other senior officers resigned to protest methods they considered contrary to military ethics, disgraceful to the Army’s image, and, from the operational perspective, counterproductive because they drove Algerians to the FLN. The last point highlights the danger of this sort of "justification" for torture. In most cases, the tactical value of any info gained by torture - which has a high probability of being unreliable in the first place - is outweighed by the negative impact upon the strategic campaign and the resultant support it engenders for the bad guys.

    A brief quote from Bernard Fall in an interview in '63: One of the by-products of revolutionary war - to come back to the question the gentleman asked me about the French officers - is that after awhile not only the front lines get fuzzy (because there aren't any front lines), but your higher front lines, of what is morally acceptable and what is not, also get fuzzy. This is really the permanent danger to anyone who has to fight that kind of war. This is what led those French colonels to practice the same tactics which they practiced on the Algerians and Vietnamese, on their own government and people in France. This is a real danger factor. An army which has to fight a revolutionary war changes in character--it changes very seriously in character. This has not yet been studied, but it must be clearly recognized and is certainly worth the study.

    Effective interrogation supporting counterterrorism is far more complex and difficult than everyday law enforcement interrogation or military PW interrogation in a conventional conflict. But torture does absolutely nothing to facilitate the effective collection of intelligence information in support of the strategic effort. In that context, it is counterproductive. That is the real lesson of Algeria.

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    I agree with the points you have brought up Jedburgh, and hope that by posting the above article I haven't made myself out as condoning such practises. I thought some might be interested in one of the participants comments on the fighting there.

    Aussaress actually published a book fairly recently, detailing what he saw and did in his time in Algeria. As a consequence, he was put on trial and stripped of military honors (retired rank and pension) and fined.

    edit to add-

    In reading the link you posted, Mr Fall actually suggests reading Larteguy's "The Centurions". He states that all officers in the story are real with names changed, and I have read that Ausseress is the source for a composite of one specific character in the book. And since that book has been brought up. I can't resist posting one of my favorite quotes-

    "Have you noticed that in military history no regular army has ever been able to deal with a properly organized guerrilla force? If we use the regular army in Algeria, it can only end in failure. I'd like France to have two armies: one for display, with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, fanfares, staffs, distinguished and doddering generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their general's bowel movements or their colonel's piles: an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country.
    The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage battledress, who would not be put on display but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That's the army in which I should like to fight."
    Last edited by esbelch32; 12-13-2005 at 08:15 PM.

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    An interesting resource, regarding this topic, is the US Army's Vietnam Era interrogation field manual (published in 1969). It's available for download in two parts:

    FM 30-15 Intelligence Interrogation

    FM 30-15 Part II

    In the second link, Chapter 4, Interrogation Support for Stability Operations is of particular interest - our current FM 2-22.3 HUMINT Collector Operations does not go into this subject in the same degree of detail. In light of the topic of this thread, I'd like to quote a bit from Section 4-7, Insurgent Vulnerability to Interrogation:
    Humane treatment of insurgent captives should extend far beyond compliance with Article 3, if for no other reason than to render them more susceptible to interrogation. The insurgent is trained to expect brutal treatment upon capture. If, contrary to what he has been led to believe, this mistreatment is not forthcoming, he is apt to become psychologically softened for interrogation. Furthermore, brutality by either capturing troops or friendly interrogators will reduce defections and serve as grist for the insurgent's propaganda mill.

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    Registered User esbelch32's Avatar
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    That is an interesting resource, thanks for posting the link.

    It is clear that the torture of enemy prisoners is detrimental for multiple reasons. Creating the 'grist for the insurrgent's propaganda mill' is an effect that all of us have seen recently, over there (MidEast) and at home. This was true then (Algeria), as it is now. From the sidebar notes of the 'torture to prevent terrorism' article:

    The French military won the war on the ground but lost in the political circles in France. The public, which heard of the wide use of torture and summary executions, launched violent mass demonstrations. In the aftermath of Vietnam and Algeria, France was threatened with civil war. In 1959, French President Charles de Gaulle decided to allow Algeria to become sovereign. The French generals organized a coup in 1961, demanding that "Algeria must stay French." The coup failed. The violent reactions in France to the unpopular war signaled its end in 1962.
    I'm not arguing that at all.

    While serving as a squad leader, I never had a problem enforcing the standard. What I did have a problem with, was getting my troops to understand why it was necessary. In talking with squad leaders from multiple units in OIF 1 & 2, I noted that this was not a phenomena restricted to my squad/platoon alone...not restricted to 'Joe'.

    That is not to say that our military is out of control, but this is a real issue. In order affect change, we must be honest with ourselves. I've seen a lot in the news about this very subject recently. In a way, I am surprised, as I thought that our stance on torture was always very clear. At least, that's what I always took away from the ROE briefs.

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    Default Book Review: My Battle of Algiers

    Commentary Magazine book review - My Battle of Algiers by Ted Morgan. Book Review by Roger Kaplan.

    A well-known journalist and biographer, Ted Morgan, born Sanche de Gramont, was as a young man a reluctant conscript in France’s last colonial war. Morgan arrived in Algeria in September 1956, two years into the gruesome and complex struggle that would put an end to France’s 130-year North African empire. Now, five decades later, he writes that the guerre d’Algérie, which Algerians call their revolution, is worth recalling because of its role in the invention of modern Arab terrorism. But he also means to come to terms with an experience that in his own eyes left him morally compromised, and that remains a subject of sharp political controversy.

    Military historians and moral philosophers may quarrel about just what constitutes modern terrorism, Arab or otherwise. But the terrorism of the Algerian nationalist insurgents, which was deliberately aimed at civilians, seemed at the time unprecedented—more cruel and immoral, Albert Camus wrote, than anything envisioned, let alone carried out, by such earlier proponents of terrorism as the Russian nihilists or the Spanish anarchists.

    The French response, too, was unprecedented. Torture is no doubt as old as warfare, but this was probably the first time a liberal-democratic regime permitted its own soldiers to apply such methods systematically. To restore security in the capital city of Algiers, French forces rounded up and tortured thousands of Muslims and a few score of their European allies, mostly members of the Algerian Communist party, often killing them in the process or afterward. For recalling this—without regret—in a memoir published five years ago, a retired French general officer named Paul Aussaresses was taken to court and found guilty of justifying torture, a crime in today’s France...

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    Default A Review of Algerian War of National Liberation

    A Review of Algerian War of National Liberation Using the U.S. Army's Current Counterinsurgency Doctrine - Colonel Karl Goetzke, US Army. US Army War College Strategy Research Project, 2005.

    The Algerian War of National Liberation is a classic counter-insurgency operation. A rebellion arising from within the Algerian population was transformed into an insurgency by the incorporation of an armed political campaign. Underlying this rebellion were socio-economic factors that typically galvanize any political campaign (e.g., distribution of wealth, participation in political intercourse). The catalyst for rebellion and resistance was a popular desire to end the French occupation of Algeria. While the indigenous population of Algeria was overwhelmingly Islamic, religious ideology was not a primary mobilizing factor behind the rebellion, unlike the current insurgencies faced in the War on Terrorism.

    This paper reviews the French Army experience during the Algerian War of National Liberation (“War of National Liberation”) in the context of the most recent U.S. Army doctrine on counterinsurgency. This review will focus on the French Army’s counterinsurgency techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) using a framework that is drawn from the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine established in Field Manual (Interim) 3-07.22, adopted in October 2004.

    THESIS

    Among the counterinsurgencies of the last 50 years, the French experience in Algeria is highly relevant to evaluation of current U.S. Army counterinsurgency doctrine to be followed in the War on Terrorism (WOT). Immediate similarities can be found between the counterinsurgency in Algeria and the counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Similarities include terrain, the TTPs of the current insurgents, and their underlying motivations and ideologies. Additionally, this was a major counterinsurgency involving a Western suppression of a rebellion arising in an Islamic population.

    ROADMAP

    Because many readers will have limited familiarity with the War of National Liberation, the paper provides a brief overview of the conflict. Subsequently, current U.S. Army doctrine on counterinsurgency is introduced. Using this doctrine as a framework, the TTPs used by the French Army are reviewed and then analyzed. This analysis seeks to establish two critical points: (1) Whether the current Army doctrine is validated by the French Army’s experience in Algeria; and (2) Whether the French Army’s experience can be applied to the current campaigns in the WOT.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-06-2017 at 08:16 AM. Reason: Was in a stand alone thread till id'd and merged.

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    Thanks for a useful paper. It does seem, though, that we've come full circle. Sure looks as if Fench TTPs were in accordance with FM 3-07.22 because the FM's drafter(s)--to their credit--likely included among their sources the venerable Modern Warfare, by Roger Trinquier, a detailed manual based on the Algerian experience....See especially references to appointment of local "block wardens" and discussion about census-based family ID cards, etc. (Col. Trinquier's nod to internal security practices then common in "Block" countries)--in the FM's Chapter 3, section on CM Ops, paras 3-27 and 3-31 and Appendix C, apparently echoing Col. Trinquier's Chapter 6.....

    So what's my point?--To reiterate that Trinquier's classical work, once regularly mentioned in the same breath as "the Brits," also retains the capability to contribute in the current environment, and deserves to be read. I'm not alone in having suggested Modern Warfare for your reading list in the relevant thread, and point out again that the link to the book--in its entirety---can be found in the SWJ Reference Library by scrolling down in the section on Counterinsurgency-Insurgency.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-06-2017 at 08:16 AM. Reason: Was in a stand alone thread till id'd and merged.

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    Default French Paratrooper Shares Experience in COIN

    Two months ago I traveled to Paris and spent three hours interviewing a former French paratrooper who participated in the Battle of Algiers. Here is a part of my interview with him. I hope it is valuable.

    On Oct. 4, 2006, Robert Rocher, now retired and living in Paris, discussed his role in the Battle of Algiers and the use of interrogation in counterinsurgency operations.

    Question: “What unit were you assigned to during the Battle of Algiers and what was your rank?”
    Answer: “I was assigned to the 2nd Regiment Parachute Colonial (RPC) as a lieutenant.”
    Q: “What were your duties with the 2nd RCP?”
    A: “We were in charge of intelligence work—gathering information. There was an intelligence officer who directed our actions. We arrested terrorism suspects and conducted interrogations. Intelligence is like fish, you have to use it when it is fresh.”
    Q: “What was the size of the unit you commanded in Algiers?”
    A: “I typically commanded 25-30 paratroopers. The paras were very flexible; sometimes I controlled as many as 50 soldiers.”
    Q: “When you arrested someone, what happened to him?”
    A: “When the person was still in good health, we took them to our headquarters and interrogated him. If the person was not well, we interrogated him directly on the spot.”
    Q: “What interrogation methods did you use?”
    A: “The interrogations were conducted verbally and sometimes a certain brutality was used. We used electric shock when necessary. All the interrogations happened as fast as possible, within 24 hours. We were trying to prevent acts of terrorism”
    Q: “How often would people talk during interrogation without physical abuse?”
    A: “Four out of five talked right away. In some cases we gained good intelligence immediately. Many of the people were very scared and had been forced to cooperate with the terrorists.”
    Q: “Were these interrogation techniques used by other units in Algiers?”
    A: “All the other units used similar techniques.”
    Q: “What happened to the prisoners after they were interrogated?”
    A: “We sent them to prison camps in the south of Algeria. It was often for their protection. If the FLN knew someone had been interrogated, the FLN would assume he talked to us and would kill him.”
    Q: “Did you ever release anyone on purpose, knowing he would be killed for talking to you?”
    A: “It happened.”
    Q: “Could you have defeated the insurgency without using inhumane interrogation techniques?”
    A: “No, for two reasons. We had to show the native Algerians we were stronger than the insurgents. The fanatical terrorists had the information we needed. They would not talk without brutality.”
    Q: “If you used the information you gained from interrogating suspects who talked freely, without the use of torture, could you eventually have beaten the insurgents?”
    A: “Those who spoke freely did not have good quality information. The ones who did not want to talk had the useful information. There are two levels of information and we needed the information from the fanatics.”
    Q: “How did you arrest people for interrogation?”
    A: “We always acted on intelligence. We never simply swept an area and detained all the residents.”
    Q: “What else can you share about your counterinsurgency experience in Algeria?”
    A: “Counterinsurgency is about creating confidence in the population. Obtaining information is key. Protecting the local population is important to make their life less difficult. When insurgencies prevail, civilization disappears. People are put into slavery by insurgent forces.”
    Q: “What was the long-term impact of losing the Algerian War for the French military?”
    A: “The army lost its morale after the war. Many officers resigned from the service and the loss fostered a corrosive attitude at the national level of government.”

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    Default How to Fight Insurgents? Lessons from the French

    29 June Christian Science Monitor - How to Fight Insurgents? Lessons from the French by Jill Carroll.

    The Pentagon held a screening in 2003 of "The Battle of Algiers," a movie about French troops winning control of the Algerian capital. President Bush says that he recently read Alistair Horne's authoritative history on the war, "A Savage War of Peace." And last fall, Christopher Harmon, who teaches a course on the Algerian war at the Marine Corps University (MCU) in Washington, lectured marines in Iraq about the Algerian model.

    Here in Algeria, some of those who participated in that war find little use in the comparison. But the US military – and the American public – continues to study the 1954-62 Algerian war of independence for lessons on how to fight the insurgency in Iraq.

    "There are very, very few examples of modern insurgency, and for urban [insurgencies] it's basically this [war]," says Thomas X. Hammes, a US insurgency expert and author of a book on guerrilla warfare, "The Sling and the Stone."

    While France ultimately withdrew from Algeria, "the French did much of the counterinsurgency very skillfully," says Mr. Harmon, who is the Kim T. Adamson Chair of Insurgency and Terrorism at MCU. "The American military has been intrigued by the case study for a long time ... it's a very good parallel."...

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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    29 June Christian Science Monitor - How to Fight Insurgents? Lessons from the French by Jill Carroll.

    I don't know what bothers me more. That Ms. Carroll doesn't know where the Marine Corps University is, or that the U.S. military wants to learn from Algeria. I think we already have that win the battles/lose the war schtick down pat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    I don't know what bothers me more. That Ms. Carroll doesn't know where the Marine Corps University is, ...
    ...that's one of the least important and least interesting things on earth. Especially for non-americans, such knowledge or lack of is so utterly uninteresting and does tell less than nothing about proficiency that I lack the words to describe it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lastdingo View Post
    ...that's one of the least important and least interesting things on earth. Especially for non-americans, such knowledge or lack of is so utterly uninteresting and does tell less than nothing about proficiency that I lack the words to describe it.

    My point was that one expects basic fact checking from a major publication. If a story doesn't get something this simple correct, it causes readers to question the accuracy of other points.

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    Exactly. If one can't be bothered to verify such BASIC information, why should anyone trust the rest of the piece?
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Default Colonel Mathieu, the para CO, in the film, the 'Battle of Algiers'

    The controversial film 'Battle of Algiers' appears in may threads on SWC, but the linked article is about the actor who portrayed Colonel Mathieu and is worth reading. Some of the pithy comments will resonate on the dilemmas of fighting an internal war, as France saw Algeria and other 'small wars'.

    Maybe the Colonel was a man for his times, not today?

    Mathieu is the key to the central scene of the film: the moment when he is cross-examined by international journalists about torture. Accused by journalists of being evasive about the methods of victory, he rounds on them. He reminds them of the consequences of blind terrorism:

    "Is it legal to set off bombs in public places?... No, gentlemen, believe me. It is a vicious circle. We could talk for hours to no avail because that is not the problem. The problem is this: the FLN want to throw us out of Algeria and we want to stay".

    He underlines that there was a political consensus, from right to left, in support of destroying the FLN rebellion.

    "We are here for that reason alone. We are neither madmen nor sadists. Those who call us fascists forget the role many of us played in the Resistance. Those who call us Nazis don’t know that some of us survived Dachau and Buchenwald. We are soldiers. Our duty is to win".

    At which point Mathieu throws the question back at the journalists:

    "Therefore to be precise, it is my turn to ask a question. Should France stay in Algeria? If your answer is still yes, then you must accept all the consequences".
    Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-...mbodied-france

    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-11-2015 at 07:06 PM.
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    Default French Failure in Algeria: A Public Relations Disaster

    French Failure in Algeria: A Public Relations Disaster

    Entry Excerpt:



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

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    Default Massu won the Battle of Algiers; but that meant losing the war

    A coup by WoTR to republish part of Alistair Horne's book 'A Savage War of Peace', to contribute to the current public debate over torture:http://warontherocks.com/2014/12/tor.../?singlepage=1

    The WoTR Editor's introduction explains:
    Editor’s Note: Nearly 40 years ago, Alistair Horne wrote a magnificent book, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962. It tells the story of the French-Algerian War, which ended with the victory of the National Liberation Front (FLN) and an independent Algeria, a land that France had considered an integral part of metropolitan France itself. This book has often been revisited in the decades since its publication, most recently during the Iraq War, when – in 2007 – President George W. Bush invited Horne to speak with him at the White House.


    One of the most powerful lessons from the book is on the issue of torture. Torture was used, arguably to great tactical effect, by the French during the war, particularly during the Battle of Algiers. Once the extent of the use of torture became public knowledge, however, it changed the debate about the war, in both France and the rest of the world. Given the ongoing debate about torture in America’s war against jihadists, reignited by the recent report on the CIA’s interrogation practices by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we could do much worse than to revisit what Horne wrote about the use and impact of torture during this savage war of peace. We are proud to re-print a portion of this book with the permission of New York Review Books. We hope that this elegant and haunting passage will illuminate America’s national debate on an issue that is inextricably linked to both America’s counterterrorism strategy and its core values. Our choice to re-print this passage is not an attempt to claim or even comment on any moral equivalence between France’s torture scandal and our own, but to draw attention to the common shape and form that these debates tend to take, within military and intelligence organizations and in society as a whole. This passage, from Chapter 9, begins with the death of Larbi Ben M’hidi, one of the six original leaders of the FLN. – RE

    Reading Alistair Horne in the knowledge that the US military included the film 'Battle for Algiers' in its training syllabus, makes it rather poignant. It is not an easy read even today.

    Citing the French prefect of Algiers, himself a torture victim in Dachau:
    All right, Massu won the Battle of Algiers; but that meant losing the war
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    Default Lessons from Algeria: counter-insurgency, commitment and cruelty

    A short blog article on Strife, a Kings War Studies blog, 'Lessons from Algeria: counter-insurgency, commitment and cruelty'. It opens with:
    In the Algerian War of 1954-62, the belligerents tore apart a society that had coexisted for a century. The wounds they left were too deep to heal. But the continuation of theviolence after the war and the spiraling civilian-targeted terror campaigns conducted by both French colonists and Algerian independence fighters was not inevitable. Avoiding this type of outcome is the point of counter-insurgency operations today. More than sixty years later, we can see that no counter-insurgency campaign can succeed with aggressive ‘search and destroy’ tactics against embedded insurgentsif the ultimate aim is peaceful coexistence in a divided society. The United States failed to take this lesson to Iraq and as a result had to adapt during its operations.
    Any country considering a counter-insurgency operation in the future must weigh up the extra costs of attempting it without this tool. France’s experience in Algeria shows that restraint and long-term commitment are vital if conflicts are to be resolved without the kind of fallout seen in Algeria in the 1960s and Iraq since 2011.
    Link:http://strifeblog.org/2015/02/20/les...t-and-cruelty/

    For reference this incident is seen by Algerians as the "beginning of the end" in 1945:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A...uelma_massacre

    Incredibly there is contemporary newsreel of the French response, IIRC with unarmed men being shot down.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-20-2015 at 08:15 PM.
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    Default Memory making: Algeria through two films

    Strife blog has a new article 'Imagining War in Film: The Algerian War in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Winds of the Aures'.

    It looks at two films, both post-independence, one French, the other Algerian and concludes - in academic words:
    The analysis of these two movies reveals that the memory of trauma and conflict can be shaped by nationalist narratives. This constitution and disciplining of memory is primarily exercised by state-controlled or state-censored cinema serving specific narratives regarding the nature, subjects, and motives of the Algerian war. In the end, we observe how both representations of the conflict divert attention from the realities of post-war nation-building. This helps recognise the (re)productive power of visual media in framing and constituting meaning and identity. The struggle for narrative eminence between Algerian and French filmmakers is a testament to the fact that artistic expression is yet another site for political struggles over power and identity.
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