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Thread: France's war in Algeria: telling the story

  1. #21
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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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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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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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 France's war in Algeria: telling the story

    Moderator's Note 17th June 2012

    This thread was renamed today alongside merging in a few threads after today's post (ends). There is a separate thread 'Algeria Again? Contemporary affairs':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=2079


    AFP, 10 Oct 07: French film breaks silence on Algerian war atrocities
    A new film described as France's Platoon tackles the savagery of the Algerian war, broaching a topic that, until recently, remained taboo, and helping France face the demons of its colonial past.

    L'Ennemi Intime (Intimate Enemy) from director Florent-Emilio Siri is the first big-budget Hollywood-style film that combines action scenes and psychological drama about France's "dirty war" in Algeria from 1954 to 1962.

    The film tells the story of idealistic young lieutenant Terrien, played by Benoit Magimel, who takes command of a desolate French army outpost high in the mountains of Kabylia.....
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-17-2012 at 12:45 PM. Reason: Add Mod's Note

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    Council Member Jayhawker's Avatar
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    Default The silence has been quite loud, actually

    I suspect the guy who wrote the copy describing the film is toiling under the same old notion that the French have failed to face the truths in their past. I think the French are very capable of understanding the facts of Algeria. Beginning with the film, "The Battle of Algiers," (1966) to General Aussarresses' recent book describing what he did, the French have been naval gazing about this since de Gaulle ended the war. Among the French they face it differently of course, debating things fiercely at times, but it has certainly not been ignored nor has the topic been "taboo."

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    Default France fighting in Algeria

    At the moment I’m reading ”The Battle of the Casbah. Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Algeria 1955-1957” written by general Paul Aussaresses, who has carried out missions in World War II and in Indochina behind Viet Minh lines and secretly in China to negotiate with the Chinese Nationalists. In January 1955 he was transfered to Algeria for the French foreign intelligence agency. Under instructions from the French Government he was the main covert figure in the counter-terrorist struggle against the FLN (National Liberation Front).

    In the book Aussaresses desribes how he defeated the FLN insurgency and annihilated innumerable terror cells in the Casbah of Algiers by a combination of intelligence work, executions, and torture. Aussaressess was all the time following the orders of the French government in Paris and their policy of all-out counter-terrorism.

    Aussaressess was interviewed on CBS 60 minutes in 2002, where he actually recommended the use of torture against Al-Qaeda after 11/9.

    Here is an extract from the foreword of his book:

    What I did in Algeria was undertaken for my country in good faith, even though i didn’t enjoy it. One must never regret anything accomplished in the line of a duty one believes in. Only too often today condemning others means acquiring a certificate of morality. I don’t attempt to justify my actions, but only to explain that once a country demands that its army fight an enemy who is using terror to compel an indifferent population to join its ranks and provoke a repression that will in turn outrage international public opinion, it becomes impossible for that army to avoid using extreme measures.
    (p.xiii)

    From French television a short interview with Aussaresses (In French)
    An another interview:


    I’m not an advocate of torture, but a country is forced to consider how far it is willing to go in fighting terrorists and protect itself against that evil.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-07-2010 at 07:42 PM. Reason: Add quote marks
    Peter Agerbo Jensen

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterJensen View Post
    ... once a country demands that its army fight an enemy who is using terror to compel an indifferent population to join its ranks and provoke a repression that will in turn outrage international public opinion, it becomes impossible for that army to avoid using extreme measures. (p.xiii)
    Saying it doesn't make it true.

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    Default A well travelled road

    PeterJensen,

    (Final paragraph)I’m not an advocate of torture, but a country is forced to consider how far it is willing to go in fighting terrorists and protect itself against that evil.
    The dilemmas faced by state agents in an insurgency, or an emergency have been discussed on SWC many times before. Notably in the threads of rendition, torture, water boarding and more. Try this one on interrogation methods as a taster:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...read.php?t=287

    The Algerian war does feature too and a quick search on Aussaresses found several comments too - including his jailing after his book was published.

    Searching on Algeria shows many threads, using Algiers gets fewer.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-21-2015 at 07:59 PM. Reason: remove redundant links
    davidbfpo

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    Default Aussaress: the general torture of France

    I just would like to remind everybody that General Aussaress is the French general Torture. He is a shame for the french army and has been dishonored from several of his distinctions.
    The rehabilitation of France during Algeria or Indochina does not pass through the rehabilitation of Aussaress and his methodes.
    Yes the use of terror by France did have some results but it also took 50 years for the French society to be able to face it.
    Many of the soldiers who served did not accept the military policy of France.
    In the long run it had more counter productive effects than positive onces.
    Algeria is an exemple of what to do but ALSO of what NOT to do.
    And finaly, do not forget that in Algeria, despite having a lower juriditial rank, algerians were french. It was a war inside the nation between its citizen at the very begining.
    Saying this, I am proud Algerian got their independance and they diserved it.
    But I am not really proud that Aussaress became a model for any one.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Cross reference

    Cross refer to this SWJ Blog article: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...ncy-in-algeria

    French Counterinsurgency in Algeria: Forgotten Lessons from a Misunderstood Conflict by by Commander H. Canuel (Canadian Navy).
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-21-2015 at 08:01 PM. Reason: amend link
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
    I just would like to remind everybody that General Aussaress is the French general Torture. He is a shame for the french army and has been dishonored from several of his distinctions.

    I think that is unfair to Aussaresses, inspite of the fact that he is a bit of a monster.

    His "work" was accepted and condoned by all that served with him.

    His "crime" (to the French) is not that he tortured... but that he speaks openly about it.

    It is not realistic to say that many soldiers did not accept the policies of the French Military... for one simple reason... explained to me by an ex Commando Marine who served for years in Algeria.

    The troops on the "sharp end" were always a minority, the mass of the national servicemen doing what contractors do today. Even National Service infantry did not serve in sectors like the Colonial, Paras, Legion, Cdo marine.

    I think it can be assumed that the mentality of a Legionnaire/Para/Colo/Cdo Marine and an unwilling conscript are slightly different.

    Hypocrisy abounds....Even men like Bigeard distance themselves from Aussaresses... and if I am not mistaken Bigeard was the first guy to take prisonners over the ocean and throw them into the sea ("Bigeard's shrimps")

    To say what Aussaress did was despicable is one thing... to say he shames the army is a totally different ballgame. He is simply the guy who broke ranks and opened his mouth... he does not shame the army, he shamed the "brotherhood".

    When I was in the legion I met the tail end of legionnaires etc who served in Algeria, so although I am no expert... I "know"

    If you want a real hero... a guy who broke the ranks because of the torture, instead of breaking the ranks by admitting to it.... take Jacques de Bollardiere

    http://legionetranger.org/YEARBOOK/bolladiere.html

    an absolute war hero... who opposed torture and was jailed DURING the war for speaking about it then.

    It is ironic that de Bollardiere was the bad guy for being against it then... and Aussaress is the bad guy for admitting to it now....
    Last edited by Seabee; 06-05-2010 at 04:53 AM.

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    The following 2 in sequence show interviews with Gen A. and a man he tortured....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhuzN...eature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88Al4...eature=related

    He is interesting to listen to....

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Seabee,

    I do not disagree with your comments. I do also know quite well few people who served during the war in Algeria.
    Aussaresse is no hero, no monster but a shame. Biggear was no hero, no monster but a shame too. The opposition to torture was not an openly discussed debate and several officers I knew were not that proud of what they did, knew, and did not denounce. Especially after having fought a previous war against the nazi regime. War crimes stays war crimes...

    My point is that Aussaresse is defenitively not the entry point for french military doctrine and practice of COIN in Algeria, called counter revolutionary war at that time.
    Several counter revolution war manual were published and are quite relevant today as yesterday.
    I would prefere to look at the french practice of COIN in Algeria that way rather than through Aussaresse. I personally do not buy the ticking clock legitimacy for torture.
    Last edited by M-A Lagrange; 06-09-2010 at 02:49 PM.

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    You have to put things in perspective and era :
    • France have been kicked out Indochine/Vietnam few years ago
    • most of Officers in duty during Algeria war have been POW and retain during weeks/months by NVT
    • Algeria was a department of France, something like Alaska for USA
    • Many French native born have leaved France to begin a new life in Algeria and some where there from decades.
    • There was still a distance between native French born and locals
    • Religions was not a gathering factor
    Politics asked military to do a police job, searching for armed opponents. The will of results leads some officers, warrants and NCO to cross the line between legal and criminal acts.

    There is a proverb in French saying something like "Only those that does not act does no mistakes".

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Yes, and there is this one:
    la raison d'Etat a des raisons que la raison ignore (The State obligations has reasons that the right/reason ignores).
    Does not change anything. Apologizing Assaresses and the "others" is not the best way to look at what was done. (not even talking about participation of some of them to OAS and the generals coup...)
    The French army choose to remember Gen Massu because he had regrets and could say he did mistakes. Mistakes are here to makes learn. I prefere to think that Algeria has been a painful learning process for the Frenh army.


    There are a lot to learn but not on the side of systematic use of torture and collective punishment.

    But your first point is one I already mentioned previously in a comment on Algeria war: this was a war among us. And because of that, it was closer to a civil war than to an issurection against an host government supported by external military forces.

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    Default Torture and interrogation

    I'm on record here at SWC as being a "softie" on interrogation (Comments on methodology) - and like Jedburgh (here), I am more impressed by brains over brawn methodologies in this area (here and here).

    I wouldn't advocate the French system; but one should be aware of the argument that sought to justify it. That you will find in a freebie Roger Trinquier, Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency (forward by Bernard Fall).

    There (in Chap. 4, Terrorism), Trinquier makes his argument for the use of torture as one of the tools in "modern warfare". I believe it is important enough (for purposes of discussion) to lay out in full (bolded type by JMM):

    Quite clearly, terrorism is a weapon of warfare, and it is important to stress it.

    Although quite old, until recently it has been utilized only by isolated revolutionaries for spectacular attacks, principally against high political personalities, such as sovereigns, chiefs of state, and ministers. Even in Indochina, where guerrillas achieved such a remarkable degree of development that it permitted the Vietminh finally to win, terrorism has never been systematically employed. For example, the plastic bomb attacks outside the municipal theater in Saigon, which caused the greatest number of victims, were not carried out by the Vietminh (see Graham Greene's book The Quiet American).

    The terrorist should not be considered an ordinary criminal. Actually, he fights within the framework of his organization,. without personal interest, for a cause he considers noble and for a respectable ideal, the same as the soldiers in the armies confronting him. On the command of his superiors, he kills without hatred individuals unknown to him, with the same indifference as the soldier on the battlefield. His victims are often women and children, almost always defenseless individuals taken by surprise. But during a period of history when the bombing of open cities is permitted, and when two Japanese cities were razed to hasten the end of the war in the Pacific, one cannot with good cause reproach him.

    Yassef Saadi, chief of the Autonomous Zone of Algiers (Z.A.A.), said after his arrest: "I had my bombs planted in the city because I didn't have the aircraft to transport them. But they caused fewer victims than the artillery and air bombardments of our mountain villages. I'm in a war, you cannot blame me."

    The terrorist has become a soldier, like the aviator or the infantryman.

    But the aviator flying over a city knows that antiaircraft shells can kill or maim him. The infantryman wounded on the battlefield accepts physical suffering, often for long hours, when he falls between the lines and it is impossible to rescue him. It never occurs to him to complain and to ask, for example, that his enemy renounce the use of the rifle, the shell, or the bomb. If he can, he goes back to a hospital knowing this to be his lot. The soldier, therefore, admits the possibility of physical suffering as part of the job. The risks he runs on the battlefield and the suffering he endures are the price of the glory he receives.

    The terrorist claims the same honors while rejecting the same obligations. His kind of organization permits him to escape from the police, his victims cannot defend themselves, and the army cannot use the power of its weapons against him because he hides himself permanently within the midst of a population going about its peaceful pursuits.

    But he must be made to realize that, when he is captured, he cannot be treated as an ordinary criminal, nor like a prisoner taken on the battlefield. What the forces of order who have arrested him are seeking is not to punish a crime, for which he is otherwise not personally responsible, but, as in any war, the destruction of the enemy army or its surrender. Therefore he is not asked details about himself or about attacks that he may or may not have committed and that are not of immediate interest, but rather for precise information about his organization. In particular, each man has a superior whom he knows; he will first have to give the name of this person, along with his address, so that it will be possible to proceed with the arrest without delay.

    No lawyer is present for such an interrogation. If the prisoner gives the information requested, the examination is quickly terminated; if not, specialists must force his secret from him. Then, as a soldier, he must face the suffering, and perhaps the death, he has heretofore managed to avoid. The terrorist must accept this as a condition inherent in his trade and in the methods of warfare that, with full knowledge, his superiors and he himself have chosen. Once the interrogation is finished, however, the terrorist can take his place among soldiers. From then on, he is a prisoner of war like any other, kept from resuming hostilities until the end of the conflict.

    In France during the Nazi occupation, members of the Resistance violated the rules of warfare. They knew they could not hide behind them, and they were perfectly aware of the risks to which they were exposing themselves. Their glory is to have calmly faced those risks with full knowledge of the consequences.

    It would be as useless and unjust to charge him with the attacks he was able to carry out, as to hold responsible the infantryman or the airman for the deaths caused by the weapons they use. According to Clausewitz:

    War . . . is an act of violence intended to compel an opponent to fulfill our Will.... Self-imposed restrictions, almost imperceptible and hardly worth mentioning, termed usages of International Law, accompany it without impairing its power. Violence . . . is therefore the means; the compulsory submission of the enemy to our will is the ultimate object. . . . In such dangerous things as war, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst. As the use of physical power to the utmost extent by no means excludes the cooperation of the intelligence, it follows that he who uses force unsparingly, without reference to the bloodshed involved, must obtain a superiority if his adversary uses less vigor in its application. . . .To introduce into the philosophy of war itself a principle of moderation would be an absurdity.
    These basic principles of traditional warfare retain all of their validity in modern warfare.

    Although violence is an unavoidable necessity in warfare, certain unnecessary violence ought to be rigorously banned. Interrogations in modern warfare should be conducted by specialists perfectly versed in the techniques to be employed.
    What runs through Trinquier's argument is a quasi-theological theme - by a positive response to interrogation (even if that response has to be obtained via violence), the terrorist becomes redeemed and then can be treated as a soldier. Now, I could argue against Trinquier's argument both on legal and theological grounds; but that would just eat up more ink than it justifies.

    My own bottom line is that, as a default position, terrorists should be considered more akin to combatants than criminals; but that the possibility of criminal prosecutions should be reserved. That is the US view (more or less - since some members in both the Bush II and Obama administrations have clouded the matter). Other countries reject the US view that an AUMF allows wartime (armed conflict) standards to be used with respect to terrorists.

    Of course, US military standards do not allow torture (even of terrorists); and (BTW) summary executions have been outlawed at least since the 1940 FM 27-10 (rev 1944) under which my dad saw combat.

    My narrow point here is that there was much more behind the French officers' transitory acceptance of torture in Algeria than the need to get results - although that was a factor, especially when the war was going badly.

    As to M-A's "I personally do not buy the ticking clock legitimacy for torture", it is difficult to have a rational discussion since the hypothetical is usually phrased in terms of a nuclear device that will kill millions of people, etc.

    I'd posit a simpler set of facts. A person is at a switch that controls an IED. which will probably kill one or more persons if it blows (that is your belief). You are armed and can prevent the switch from being flipped by killing the person at the switch. You have a reasonable belief that the person will flip the switch. So far as I know, that situation comes within the justified homicide doctrine allowing deadly force to be used to protect the life of another person.

    Change the facts a bit - instead of a switch, the IED blows unless a code sequence is sent to it. Should you use violence (up to and including deadly force) to obtain the code sequence ? If "no", then you can shoot the guy at the switch, but you cannot torture the guy with the code sequence. Is this a disconnect in overall logic ?

    Of course, if you are of the Hanns Joachim Scharff school of interrogation, you might well argue that violence is not the better answer - and that "enhanced interrogation" is as (or more) likely to lose information as to gain information.

    In any event, once you move away from the guy at the switch (who can be stopped by a bullet to the brain stem), the issues get more complex and darker.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
    Yes, and there is this one:
    la raison d'Etat a des raisons que la raison ignore (The State obligations has reasons that the right/reason ignores).
    Does not change anything. Apologizing Assaresses and the "others" is not the best way to look at what was done. (not even talking about participation of some of them to OAS and the generals coup...)
    The French army choose to remember Gen Massu because he had regrets and could say he did mistakes. Mistakes are here to makes learn. I prefere to think that Algeria has been a painful learning process for the Frenh army.


    There are a lot to learn but not on the side of systematic use of torture and collective punishment.

    But your first point is one I already mentioned previously in a comment on Algeria war: this was a war among us. And because of that, it was closer to a civil war than to an issurection against an host government supported by external military forces.
    I did not apologize anyone.
    I only try to tell that these guys was different than we are : most of them was born during or just after WWII, their scale was different than ours.
    Judging facts 45 years old, knowing the issue is biased.
    Yes, they cross the red line, but i will not be in that sort of situation : requested to have quick results, doing a job you're not train/prepare to assume, seeing civilians of your own country exposed to IED, without other alternative than doing the dirty job or dismiss.

    I do agree about the learns we have to get from Algeria : Police/Counter-Terrorism is not a job for Army.
    Last edited by jps2; 06-09-2010 at 07:51 PM.

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    Default Mike

    D'acord.

    JohnT

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