Monday, July 18, 2016

Thereby Hangs a Tale...

Guardian Australia is featuring a "video explainer" called Why is France targeted so often by terrorists (16/7). Its only reference to that nation's bloody colonial history is as follows:

"France has intervened militarily and economically to defend its interests in Africa and the Middle East."

To expand the old Shakespearean line: thereby hangs a largely overlooked, not to say forgotten, tale - at least by the mainstream media.

Although the warp and woof of this tale has many a tangled strand, I present here just one, involving the intersection between France's (along with Britain's and Israel's) failed stab at regime change in 1956 Egypt and its arrogant refusal to read the writing on the wall in 1960s French occupied/settled Algeria:

"When [British PM Anthony] Eden and [Foreign Secretary Selwyn] Lloyd left Paris [French PM Guy] Mollet was able to reassure his Israeli partner, David Ben-Gurion, that he could depend absolutely on British co-operation in the plan for invading [Egypt's] Sinai and capturing the [Suez] Canal. So confident, in fact, was the mood in Paris after the meeting of October 16 [1956] that Mollet and his Ministers now decided to toughen their Algerian policy. Until this moment they had not been certain enough of ultimate victory over the [Algerian] nationalists to go all out in their efforts to crush the rebellion. But now that [the Egyptian president] Nasser was to be destroyed, the order was given to pull no punches and a plan was promptly hatched to capture the leader of the Algerian rebels, Ahmed Ben Bella, by a singular act of treachery.

"Ben Bella was currently visiting Rabat at the invitation of the Sultan of Morocco, who, with Premier Bourguiba of Tunisia, was seeking to persuade the National Liberation Front of Algeria to agree to peace talks with the French. These efforts at mediation had earlier received active encouragement from Mollet himself, in token of which the French authorities had earlier given a safe-conduct across Algeria for the aeroplane which was to transport Ben Bella from Rabat to Tunis for the talks with Bourguiba. But Mollet was now no longer interested in discussing peace in Algeria. And when the aeroplane reached Algerian air space it was immediately intercepted by French fighters and forced to land at Algiers Airport. Ben Bella and four of his nationalist associates were then arrested and taken off to prison in France, where they were to remain until Algeria finally won her independence six years later.

"By this act of treacherous folly, France not only forfeited the last vestiges of Arab respect in North Africa, but, when her Suez plan failed to destroy Nasser, she served to prolong her own agony in Algeria by isolating the principal spokesman of the nationalists in a Paris prison and thereby denying to the only interlocutor valable the opportunity to negotiate a settlement. From then on it was war to the death in Algeria - and many Frenchmen as well as Algerians were to die in the six bloody years that followed. Egypt increased her assistance to the rebels, and the Moroccans and Tunisians, rebuffed in their efforts to bring about a truce, joined in giving the National Liberation Front all possible aid and protection." (No End of a Lesson: The Story of Suez, Anthony Nutting, 1967, pp 100-01)


Anonymous said...

perhaps you should explain to your younger readers just who Anthony Nutting was and his role in the Suez debacle.

I look forward to another instalment on French intervention and colonialism in the Middle East. Lebanon and Syria post WW1 comes to mind.

Of course, it goes without saying, nothing excuses historical or contemporary barbarism. An honest examination of the facts is no burden.

MERC said...

The buggers can google him when they've finished chasing pokemons.

Grappler said...

In Suez, once again, Churchill's role is interesting:,474056&hl=en

Churchill wanted the military action to continue despite Eisenhower's threat of economic sanctions on the UK that would have had severe repercussions.