Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Remember the Algerian War?

Consider the following Australian ms press snippets arising from recent reportage on the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

"Cherif [Kouachi], 32, and Said [Kouachi], 34, were born in the northern 10th arrondissement of Paris, a downbeat district of railway terminals and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods... The boys' Algerian immigrant parents died when the children were small." (Journey from 'delinquent' rapper to killer, Dominic Kennedy/Sean O'Neill, The Australian, 10/1/15)

"Their parents are thought to have been among the waves of immigration in the decades after Algeria's independence in 1962." (Civilisation under siege, Matthew Campbell, The Australian, 12/1/15)

 "'We are engaged in a new kind of war,' said Alain Juppe, a former French prime minister. 'It spreads from the chaos in the Middle East... Unspoken by Mr Juppe, but understood by all, was the conclusion that the beneficiary in cold political terms from the outrage is Marine Le Pen. The leader of the National Front has turned the party into France's most popular, thanks in part to her anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant discourse." (Jihad born in neglected ghettos on city edges, Charles Bremner, The Australian, 9/1/15)

"... the thousands of demonstrators who gathered at the Place de la Republique on Wednesday night chanted: 'Je suis Charlie' - I am Charlie. We are Charlie. At the centre of the Place de la Republique are three statues entitled [sic] Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The massacre at the Bastille, where Charlie Hebdo had its offices, is redolent with symbolism, as the Bastille was the flashpoint for the revolution whose rallying cry became liberty, equality and fraternity. This attack... was an attack on liberty, equality and fraternity." (Editorial: Better to die standing than live on our knees, Sydney Morning Herald, 9/1/15)

The connection is never made clear, but each of the above, in its own way, references an earlier episode in French history: the French occupation and colonisation of Algeria (1848-1962) and the bloody war of independence (1954-62) which ended it. In the plethora of reports on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in the Australian press, however, not one - in the spirit of Faulkner's "The past is never dead. It's not even past"  - bothered to join the dots.

While the slogan of the French Revolution (1787-1799), Liberty, Equality & Fraternity, would have come easily to the Herald's editor, I doubt the fact of its non-application to the peoples of France's colonial empire would ever have entered his Eurocentric mind.

For example, when the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) issued its November 1954 call for French recognition of Algerian nationhood, with "equal rights and duties" for all French colons choosing Algerian citizenship, and ties between France and Algeria "defined by agreement between the two powers on the basis of equality and mutual respect," far from living up to its revolutionary motto, France opted instead to repress the Algerian independence movement, triggering a brutal struggle "bringing death to an estimated one million Muslim Algerians and the expulsion from their homes of approximately the same number of European settlers."*

As for Algerian Muslim immigration to France, I found myself wondering whether or not the long-deceased parents of the Kouachi brothers may have been among the ranks of the Algerian Muslim harki forces, who had fought with the French against their nationalist countrymen, and fled to France after the Algerian War:

"According to Ait Ahmed, these convulsions of the summer of 1962 cost the lives of a further 15,000 Algerians. But the worst fratricidal horrors were reserved for those Muslims who, like the harkis, had continued to fight for France. De Gaulle had never shown much sympathy for them; to a Muslim deputy, ten of whose family had already been killed by the FLN and who had protested that on 'self determination' 'we shall suffer', de Gaulle had replied coldly, 'Eh bien! vous suffrirez.' As General de Gaulle had feared... the peace agreements contained no guarantee sufficient to save these Algerians now from the wrath of their countrymen, in whose eyes they were nothing but traitors. Out of the quarter of a million who had worked for the French less than 15,000 had managed to escape from Algeria... In France they were, for the most part, to live lives of poverty, unappreciated and unassimilated. Of the fate of those that remained, however, harrowing stories came out of Algeria. Hundreds died when put to work clearing the minefields along the Morice Line, or were shot out of hand. Others were tortured atrociously; army veterans were made to dig their own tombs, then swallow their decorations before being killed; they were burned alive, or castrated, or dragged behind trucks, or cut to pieces and their flesh fed to dogs. Many were put to death with their entire families, including young children. Compelled by the terms of the Evian Agreements to stand by and witness this massacre of their former allies, the agony of the French army was extreme. In some cases, acting under orders, units had been forced to disarm the wretched harkis on the promise of replacing them with better weapons - then sneaked away in the middle of the night, abandoning them to their fate."

As for the reference to the Islamophobic far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen, would it surprise you to know that its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, had been a French intelligence officer during the Algerian War?

[*A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, Alistair Horne, 1977, p 14;** 537-38]

2 comments:

Vacy said...

KARMA has a justice of its own.. Colonial masters exploit countries then moan when the natives settle in the mother n country- suck it up!

Anonymous said...

There is much myth making about the French Republique and the schizoid nature of its various unstable governments.

"Since 1789 France has had two monarchies, two empires, five republics, the German satellite state of Vichy, and fifteen constitutions."
The Foreign Legion, The vivid history of a unique military tradition, Charles Mercer, p.307

All this is in addition to a number of attempted coups, inclding the ultra right wing Organisation Armee Secrete [O.A.S.] putch of 1961 in Algeria, which followed the downfall of six French governments and the election of General De Gaulle.

It is Liberty, Equality and Fraternity--selectivly. Just like the servile, cock-crowing 'western' politicians loudly and frequently proclaiming 'our values', all the while defending the likes of Israel ad nauseam.

Since when did war criminal and terrorist Zionism become a 'western' value?

The hypocracy is breathtaking.