Item description for The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Algeria 1955-1957 by Paul Aussaresses...
This book is particularly relevant to the current debate on terrorism. That story constitutes the main part of this book. It details the methods used, including torture and summary executions, and the results obtained by the paratrooper commando units led
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 2004
Publisher Enigma Books
ISBN 1929631308 ISBN13 9781929631308
Availability 11 units. Availability accurate as of Feb 20, 2017 12:50.
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Algeria 1955-1957?
Briser la Greve (Break the Strike)! Mar 21, 2008
First, I must admit I've not read the English translation of this book. I read the 2001 Perrin Edition in French (entitled, "Services Speciaux: Algerie 1955-1957). Nonetheless, assuming the translation accurate, here are my perspectives:
Aussaresses wrote this book when he was around 83 years old and with full knowledge of the probable ramifications of it's publication in France, to wit, prosecution for war crimes. Sure enough, that hypocritical action was undertaken by the French government. The General (for that was his final rank) was fined $6500 for "trying to justify war", but not for the acts themselves, as these were previously covered by an amnesty. Perrin Publishing was fined another $13,000. Aussaresses was further barred from wearing his uniform and he was stripped of his Legion d'Honneur.
Knowing, as he did, the ramifications of these memoirs, why do it? Aussaresses is nothing if not candid. His "confessions" are bare of adornment and self-justification. He embellishes nothing and omits nothing, including self-incriminating statements. However, he also makes quite clear that he was acting under the direct orders of his immediate superior (General Massu) who, in turn, was acting under the direct orders of the French Government, which included Francois Mitterand (Interior Minister). The methods used in the Battle of Algiers were first tried and proven successful in Philippeville, Algeria and were conducted under specific Interior Ministry order: "Des instructions drastiques furent donnees pour ecraser la rebellion..." (Draconian measures were authorized for wiping out the rebellion). Further, "Comme on ne pouvait eradiquer le terrorisme urbain par les voies policieres et judiciares ordinnaires, on demandait aux parachutistes de se substituer tant aux policiers qu'aux juges" (Ordinary police and judicial measures were ineffective against urban terorism, so it was demanded of the parachutistss to substitute such measures as they judged needed). Aussaresses repeatedly confirmed that this "sale boulot" (dirty job) was to be performed under valid orders and, despite his attempts to refuse it (correctly divining that he would ultimately be stuck with the culpability), pressed ahead.
Algeria was an integral department of France. Thus, the counterinsurgency was being undertaken against French citizens (at least de jure citizens, if not de facto). Of course, torture was used and many needlessly suffered. For whatever reasons, the rebellion was militarily crushed, but this tactical victory was Pyrrhic, as the political war was lost, as sympathy amongst elites evaporated and elements of the military (in concert with revanchist pieds-noirs) began acting against the French government as a final act of desperation. De Gaulle began negotiations for independence and Algeria left France.
Whilst some have taken this (and other books, such as Roger Trinquier's work) as "blueprints" for winning against Iraqi counterinsurgents, this is a misplaced emphasis. These wars are won the "hard way": politically, with a firm policing and military component. The French actually used this approach in some sectors, reportedly with good success. The larger enterprise was a failure. The long-term ramifications for France (now with a large population of Algerian Muslim immigrants) are just starting to be felt.
In summary, an outstanding, lucid memoir and integral component of the history of the French-Algerian War: not to be missed by any serious student of the subject.
An eye opener of the Algerian War Dec 2, 2006
this site actually recommended this to me from previous purchases and as I had no idea what happened in Algeria it was good reading easy to follow a good number of photo's showing some of the main players, a feel of the city. The book gives one soldiers story on his shadow war in two cities and how he came about ending the terrorism - it is brutal.
A Must-Read... With a Few Grains of Salt Oct 12, 2006
This is a fascinating but brutal account of a desperate period in history: France's effort to preserve its overseas "departement" from takeover by the main Algerian revolutionary organization, the ultra-violent FLN. The author, then a captain, was the secret counter-insurgency commander in the then-regional capital, Algiers. Essentially, he met terrorism with terror, and justifies his brutal absolutism with grim historical facts that are excluded from Pontecorvo's historically-inaccurate propaganda film, "The Battle of Algiers." Although France was ultimately to lose the war, Aussaresses (as confirmed even by his opponents) won the battle!
It puzzles me that so many reviewers refer to Aussaresses as cold-blooded and unfeeling. The book owes its many stylistic faults to the passion and obvious defensiveness of a very emotional man. This gives the brutal story moments of unintentional humour, as in the bizarre anecdote of the Franco-Algerian farmer, his head "split in half" by a radicalized Moslem, who goes home to bed to die, first relating his experience to the local police chief!!!
The claim has been made that Aussaresses' methods had a major political impact on the war's outcome, but I doubt it. As in America's war in Vietnam, France's war was chiefly fought by draftees in the countryside, and it was the growing bodycount amoung the children of native Frenchmen, fighting for the privileges of a colonial population that was not ethnically French, that lost the war politically. Likewise the issue for the local native population was the cruel reality both of second-class citizenship and of FLN terrorism, as anyone whose political stance was not in accord with theirs was murdered, often with unspeakable brutality. Anyone examining this book in terms of other counter-insurgency operations, like America in Iraq, must bear these facts in mind. The appropriate context in which to weigh Aussaresses' account is the thorny question of whether order is more important than law or vice versa!
As this book focusses almost exclusively on Aussaresses' experiences in and around Algiers it needs to be read with more comprehensive works on the Franco-Algerian war such as Alastair Horne's "A Savage War of Peace." As other reviewers have pointed out, however, it makes for an excellent counterpoint to the rose-colored romanticizations of Pontecorvo, and I strongly recommend it. Aussaresses must be applauded for speaking with a frankness that has eluded his opponents.
The Prince of Darkness MACV & TLC May 27, 2006
A great bit of history revealed. The truth that's told is more important then the writing. It is a engaging journal from someone who was there and who did what needed to be done. This book should be read by every senior US and British commander in Iraq and then they should kick the prying and crying press out of the country for six months while they do what needs to be done to secure peace. If we don't do what needs to be done we will lose the world war against the terrorists. Ironically it is the French who have been the most brutal of modern western powers in the past 100 years yet they critized the US & Britain in their daring attempt to liberate a people from a murdering dictator. Read and learn my friends, read and learn.
A must read for students of counterinsurgency. Mar 21, 2006
I believe many of those who wrote reviews of this book are writing from their hearts as opposed to cooly assessing this excellent work. Afterall, it is hard for one to embrace the author's premise that physical torture and summary executions were the only way to effectively deal with Algerian insurgents.
Although one may not want to accept this methodology, many influential members in French military and political circles accepted this as the price to pay to keep Algeria French. Because these senior leaders were able to get men like Paul Aussaresses to do their dirty work for them does not make their hands any cleaner. Aussaresses obviously could not have done what he did for so long without the approval of his chain of command.
I commend the author for having the moral courage to admit his own actions when everyone else involved has taken the different approach of sweeping it under the rug. Admitting to crimes against humanity is nothing to be proud of, but Aussaresses was certainly the implementer of French political will just as Adolf Eichmann was for Germany.
This is an important work for understanding to what extent nations will go to, to secure their empires. It is also important for understanding counterinsurgency and the limits of violence. Whatever your political/moral take on the author, this is an interesting, unique book and well worth the time spent reading it.