[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: Politically Correct Response
Please send this suggestion on to the author of that piece Gill just sent to
Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World
Order should be read by all of us. Read pages 110-120 "The Islamic
Resurgence" as a first orientation. My first reading of the book was about
four years ago. I knew near nothing of Islam until then beyond some
acquaintance with the French Army's painful experience there after their
I'll paste on a just written review of painful work published in May. This
was discussed at the National War College on 7 September and I can send some
comments on this if any of you are interested.
Our dedicated ignorance of the world about us has cost us far too much, and
it is not yet marked PAID.
SERVICES SPECIAUX ALGERIE 1955-1957 by General Paul Aussaresses
Sadly, this disturbing work by one of the world's most experienced and
competent special warfare officers has not yet been translated. This
striking man was posted as their liaison officer to Fort Benning from 1961 to
1963 as a very experienced major from the French airborne. He spent part of
each month at Fort Bragg working with and "…pour les forces speciales
americaines engagees au Vietnam…" as he says in the book's next to last page.
His mission with us was explaining: 1) why the French had lost their war in
Indochina; 2) why we would lose ours; and 3) why we should not go there. We
could not hear him! The cost for this inability to hear an unwelcome message
has still not been marked "paid in full."
Aussaresses' own experience in special warfare began with his four jumps
as a Jedburgh* into France to different maquis elements there during WWII.
This was the prelude to his six and a half-year close-combat tour in
Indochina with an elite parachute regiment. We will not be able to share
what he learned from his experiences there and in Algeria until we become
much more proficient at crossing cultures. This discipline is as important
for Special Forces soldiers as the use of grenades, but… .
He has been very prominent for the past year, and featured in most
popular French publications. His candid explanations of his role in
Algeria's capital city during that territory's struggle for independence from
France after more than 100 years as a colony, are worse than depressing. His
statements emphasize his authorized and required use of torture, and the
subsequent follow-on summary executions of his victims. Torture of captured
insurgents was the only way to procure enough information soon enough to
begin the elimination of this movement's personnel before it was too late.
Their immediate execution afterwards reduced the possibility that the persons
they had exposed could be alerted and escape. Incidentally, many (most?)
captured agents talked without torture, but this was not a reason to let them
This book was published on May 1st, and has been on French best seller lists
since then. Its themes have been featured particularly in France's most
prominent daily paper, Le Monde and the weekly equivalent of Newsweek: Le
Point. The relevance of these revelations for the American military today
are particularly powerful. Torture was the only way available for occupying
soldiers to acquire the information required to control/combat a force
determined to triumph in a "people's war" and force their withdrawal. One of
the many things we Americans needed to know back in the early 60s when
Aussaresses was briefing us: why the torture was effective in the short term
but the advantages gained would not endure. We still need understand this as
the failures of our CIA-run Province Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and our
inexperienced SEAL's behavior demonstrated ad nauseam in Vietnam. The
selective use of torture by these sub-agents of our command there was not
acceptable, in part because these units were too ineffective to make adequate
use of what they acquired.
As its title indicates, Aussaresses is telling the story of his posting for
this distinct mission of using torture to disable the insurgent's movement.
His new unit, the 10th Parachute Division was stationed in the colony's
capital, Algiers. This unit divided this city of a half million inhabitants
into four areas, each to be kept under control by one of its parachute
regiment. The Casbah is the storied area occupied mostly by Arabs, who were
both a target and a resource for the incipient "Liberation Movement."
The French control over this section of Algeria was also challenged by the
other significant segment of the population, ten percent of whom were the
Europeans determined to maintain their privileged economic and political
position in-country. The plan of the leaders of these people, the so-called
pied noirs, included a terrifying massacre of the 50,000 Arabs living there.
An aspect of this, the emptying of a collection of tanker trucks on the
Casbah's sector's main streets and then setting the gasoline ablaze, was
scuttled by Aussaresses, using the same techniques for acquiring information
he used on insurgents.
A major component of his mission was to keep such actions by the elements
competing for control of Algeria from happening. His orders authorized and
required him to conduct such operations as he deemed necessary to accomplish
this. His total lack of guilt for torture, and then execution of the persons
he found planning and/or carrying such activities, stems from his and his
superiors' conviction that there were no alternatives to his drastic actions.
Aussaresses himself had been conscious from his first days as a member of
the Special Services the he would certainly be tortured if captured. He
never thought that he would be directing such an activity.
The Arab movement against both the French and the pied noirs was
organized into a cabal that titled itself the Force Liberation Nationale.
The missions of Aussaresses and the 10th Division's commander were
complicated further by the financing of the rebels from France itself.
Algerian workers in France were forced to furnish much of what they earned to
FLN agents to be transmitted home. The penalty for failure to pay this "tax"
was death. A cabal of French sympathizers set up an effective system for
transporting these funds, themselves to be used to acquire weapons and
Aussaresses' experience in WWII and Indo-China had earned him the
reputation as the most effective of the French figures in their Special
Services. His colleague and commander from both these wars, Colonel Roger
Trinquier, was also present with him during this time in Algeria. The
Special Warfare School received Trinquier's La Guerre Moderne at Fort Bragg
in 1962 and was able to have it published as Modern Warfare**. It was not
able to have it read and understood by U.S. decision makers.
The effect of the certain ubiquity everywhere in the future of CNN will
reinforce the natural unwillingness of American soldiers to act as did the
two torture/execution teams Aussaresses established in the 10th Parachute
Division. A danger of such a situation developing, however, could come with
the frustrations that will certainly accompany one of the elements we are now
contemplating now for our future: "urban warfare." Fighting in cities
becomes a "one on one" operation very quickly and the solution Aussaresses
was applying will tempt many distressed commanders as it did the French in
The major lesson to draw from his decision to make the French public
appreciate their history, is that some very undesirable events may become
absolutely indispensable despite their horrible, inhuman aspects. His
example: repeated explosions or other attacks on a nation's people or its
infrastructure may have to be confronted. Torture may be the only tool
available to prevent their continuation. No regrets for such defensive
actions are appropriate. Adequate information must be acquired despite what
its immediate cost may be.
* The Jedburghs were very small (three men!) U.S. or British and French teams
splendidly prepared to work with resistance elements in German occupied
Europe. One of these Americans, much noted later was Bill Colby, then of the
OSS who parachuted into both France and Norway. Other U.S. and French
Jedburgh veterans were posted to China to fight the Japanese there. Retired
Army Major General Jack Singlaub, then a 1st Lieutenant was one of these.
**We sent the discussion from this work that contributed to the Phoenix
and Cheu Hoi programs to the staffs in Washington working on PROVIN (Programs
My reaction to this book is quite personal, individual, and based on my
appreciation of Aussarsses as a very effective soldier with a mission no one
would want. Sadly, non-French readers will be deprived of my exposure to
what he has written. I will make an effort to respond to questions and
comments based on any of my readers reactions and experiences.