A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, June 18, 2010

Marcel Bigeard, 1916-2010

I was alerted to this via Andrew Exum, since it relates to a major figure in counter-insurgency: One of the last of the military leaders on either side in the post-World War II wars of decolonization has died at age 94. Marcel Bigeard rose from enlisted rank to Lieutenant General in a career that began with being taken prisoner in the Fall of France. Escaping to North Africa to join the Free French, he was parachuted into France to work with the resistance. His call sign "Bruno" stuck with him throughout his career. Bigeard later fought throughout the Indochina War and was at Dien Bien Phu, but in our part of the world he will be remembered as the Commander for the Casbah of Algiers during General Massu's 1957 "Battle of Algiers." He is not, shall we say, particularly well remembered in independent Algeria.

More recently, he was drawn into the renewed debate over the use of torture during the war in Algeria, claiming not to have used it himself but defending its use under certain circumstances. (Sound familiar?) Wikipedia here. If you read French, the somewhat differing perspectives of Le Monde and Le Figaro ("la mort du centurion").

He will not be well remembered in Algiers, I fear.

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