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November 17, 2007

The Battle of Algiers

by at 2:46 pm.

If you are a subscriber to Comcast on Demand, I would strongly suggest that you watch the 1966 (Italian produced) film, The Battle of Algiers, which is now available at no charge on cable television. It is rarely shown on television and difficult to find at your local video store.

This is the film that was screened at the Pentagon a few months after the U.S. invaded Iraq. After the Pentagon viewing became public, there was a lot of discussion in the press as to why the Pentagon would show this somewhat obscure film.

At the time some suggested that the Pentagon was using this film to help their staff understand “the earlier efforts of a Western power to deal with terrorism in an Arab capital.” Apparently, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger thought there were similarities and a lesson to be learned from the French-Algerian War. He offered George Bush his copy of a newly published book, “A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962” written by historian Alistair Horne. Kissinger even highlighted passages for the President to read.

Those of you who want to try to understand French national psyche at it relates to their former “colonies” and the immigrants from those countries, this is a great film to watch.

Warning, the film is in black and white; documentary (cinéma-vérité) style, in Arabic and French with English subtitles and needless to say, lefty. If you are a film buff, this is a must see.

6 Responses to “The Battle of Algiers”

  1. Josh Says:

    1.) Great movie.
    2.) I didn’t think it was lefty at all.
    3.) Why did you spell George Bush the way you did?

  2. Mimi Says:

    Because I misspelled it. I corrected it now. It will not happen again. My apologies to “W.”

  3. Paul@01852 Says:

    I would highly recommend Horne’s book as well as the movie. I just recently re-read it (I originally read it back in college when it first was published). Its a scary vision of what might be happening in Iraq right now.

  4. Joel Patterson Says:

    Robert Farley’s examination of Colonel Mathieu is a must-read for anyone who has seen the film. And, thank you, Mimi, for pointing out that it is available On Demand. It is a brilliant film, and for those who buy the Criterion Collection edition, there is a fascinating interview with Richard Clarke on the third disc, regarding what the Battle of Algiers can teach America now.

  5. C R Krieger Says:

    I have not seen the movie, but I would hope that Algeria and Algiers in the 1950s do not represent the French People today. I read “The Question” in the late 1950s and was shocked. I recently read “The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Algeria 1955-1957″ by former Brigadier General Paul Aussaresses. I say former because he was stripped of his rank and pension and his Legion of Honor after he went public about six years ago. The fact is that Paul Aussaresses tortured people and then killed them–his claim is that he never killed an innocent person. A good reason for the Pentagon to sceen the movie is because it shows the dangers of fighting this kind of war.

    For those who wish to be cautioned some more, I recommend “The Centurions” and “The Praetorians,” both by Jean Larteguy. This pair of books follows some French soldiers from a POW camp in Viet-nam into Algeria through to a coup against de Gaulle.

    Civil-Military relations are very important and it is important for civilians to understand how the stresses of wars like France’s war in Algeria (or perhaps our war in Iraq) can stress the military. I don’t believe we are anywhere close to the situation in France in the 1950s. But, it is a warning. However, I don’t think those days represent France today.

    Regards — Cliff

  6. joe Says:

    To Cliff’s list I’ll add “Day of the Jackal.”

    We tend to think that people who use words like “treason” and “betrayal” to describe those who disagree with them about a war are just being irresponsible in their rhetoric.

    No, they mean it. Their words need to be taken seriously.

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