A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

56 Years Ago: Massu Launches the Battle of Algiers

On January 8, 1957, in the midst of the Algerian War of Independence, France began the most notorious phase of its war to retain Algeria: the Battle of Algiers. General Jacques Massu and the Army had just been given extraordinary powers by the French government to eliminate the National Liberation Front (FLN) from the capital, through any means necessary, including torture, detention without charge and other extra-legal measures. On the 8th the French Paras moved into the Casbah.

The Algerian war was one of the most brutal of the colonial wars, and it arguably did as much damage to France (bringing down the Fourth Republic) as to Algeria. The brutality of urban guerrilla warfare has not abated in the 56 years since. (Note: My original headline said 55 years ago today. Like a lot of people, my brain still thinks it's 2012.) Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 film The Battle of Algiers remains a  masterpiece of film-making about a revolutionary movement.

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