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Re: when and where?
This is another paper written after seeing this two hour (!) video. See it if you can.
It puts this dispressing story in a sharp perspective.
THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS
The International Historic Films production of a video depiction of one of the most grim of recent events, is a depressing success of real dimension. It puts a number of important events into perspective. The numerous awards it has received tell of its certain value for all of those who need to understand what began nearly a half century ago in a very painful portion of the history of France, as its empire was coming apart. The long-term effects of this urban war that took place in the capital city of Algeria, were only beginning in 1962 when this colony became a separate country, independent of France. They are still being felt, moreover, in both countries. The value of this faithful depiction of that tragic affair's events is being enhanced as we Americans try to understand our own first-ongoing-conflict with an Islamic people.
The dialogue of the film is in French. The English sub-titles are adequate to keep misunderstandings at a minimum. It may not have been the producers' intent to illustrate how important it is for us to be able to cross cultures. However, this is a message that comes through distinctly. Soldiers, particularly those in our Special Forces, should see this film several times.
The actual procedures and techniques used by the Algerian leaders to organize their rebellion are illustrated powerfully by the persons acting their parts. Filming this depiction "on location," i.e., in Alger itself, makes it even more credible. The French call this a "revolutionary war." Knowing how to conduct, hence how to counter such an affair has never gotten into the consciousness of most professional soldiers. Our own failure in Vietnam illustrates this very well. It is a pity we did not have this story in our consciousness before we committed ourselves there. It had occurred.
The film begins with the obvious physical pains of an Algerian rebel captured by the French military. They are forcing him to divulge the location where some of his leaders are concealing themselves. This depressing beginning sets the scene for the rebels to explain how their organization develops from cells where only its three members know one another, hence can only betray themselves. A dramatic early scene has an escaped prisoner validate himself with the rebels by an attempt to kill a French policeman. He does not know that the pistol he has been furnished to do this won't fire. His assassination effort proves to the others though, that his escape from prison was not staged by his French jailors to put an infiltrator in their midst.
A number of depictions of actual ambushes of French authorities, particularly policemen, are very realistic. These have two purposes: killing policemen themselves, thus inspiring violent reactions on their fellow officer's parts that will inflame surviving Algerians. Time bombs are realistically, successfully placed in public facilities frequented by French persons by three attractive Algerian women. These have the same effect, i.e., inspiring blind unthinking reactions on the part of French authorities that will further the rebels cause.
An historically real section shows how a pied noir (the European settlers) effort to bomb the Casbah area inhabited by Arabs, took place. The rebels are shown validating themselves as the legitimate authorities of their people by carrying on such actions as conducting marriages clandestinely, as complements to their assassinations.
The actual effort by the rebels to impose an eight day strike so the United Nations will intervene, or at least take official notice of what was happening is a striking event. The frustration of this by the French authorities is brutal and effective. It makes the UN seem impotent at best, realistic enough.
The French colonel whose forces are everywhere, explains why applying torture to acquire information is to accept the circumstances that such a rebellion imposes when soldiers are told to put it down. He answers questions imposed by journalists in a press conference with such style that every soldier seeing these scenes will recall how the media forces events to be put into perspectives that trouble authorities.
The video takes two fascinating hours to tell its story. It is historically sound as it depicts the actual rationale and actions of the French parachute division charged with stopping the revolution. Their commanding officer, a very credible colonel, explains why he is taking specific actions. The film switches to the rebels leaders discussing how their actions attain their opposing objectives. Such realistic police actions as requiring hospitals to report gunshot wounds and to refuse to allow pharmacies to distribute medicines to care for these, are well presented. The much more secretive life then of General Paul Aussaresses, thoroughly examined on the relevant pages of Soldier of Fortune, is hinted at but not shown in the detail now being imposed on the French.
One conclusion: I am better prepared to run a rebellion now than before I saw this film. Another: I am better prepared to counter a rebellion now as well. An old truth is well illustrated, i.e., better information is what all of us need to further our various purposes. A historic setting is very persuasive for this.