Wednesday, May 05, 2004

onwards and upwards
Clinging to the hope that those Mirror photos are false so you can talk about the pictures and not the actual torture, sorry 'torture'? Suddenly discovered the benefits of moral equivalence? After all, our boys didn't torture half as many people half as badly as Saddam did. Feeling a little queasy nonetheless? Let Mr Hitchens stiffen your backbone.

Nobody should know this better than Lakhdar Brahimi, the current envoy of the United Nations and a lifetime member of the Algerian FLN. A few years ago, his party and his government were challenged by an extreme fundamentalist movement that actually won the first round of a general election but would probably not have permitted any subsequent one. In any event, the Algerian authorities announced that on no account would they surrender the country to the "insurgency" that followed. They showed themselves willing to kill on an unprecedented scale, employing measures that the U.S. Marines would never be permitted. Repulsive though many of the tactics were, I think the FLN was broadly right. Certainly, Algeria today is a far better society for the outcome, and so is the whole of North Africa and therefore Southern Europe. These are the stakes. It is impossible to lose sight of them for a moment and irresponsible to confer the noble title of rebel or revolutionary on those who showed no courage at all when there was a real tyranny in the land.

I like that 'broadly'. The Algerian dirty war killed around 100,000 people. Presumably, if a few less of them had been women and children, the FLN would have been right narrowly and in every particular. Let's take a snap look at what actually happened, via Human Rights Watch.

Doubts that all of the killings attributed to the GIA were the responsibility of a single organization acting alone were fueled by the posture of the security forces towards the perpetrators of the massacres in 1997 and 1998 and by a series of statements by former security officials in exile claiming Algeria’s military intelligence apparatus, the Securité Militaire, had both deployed forces masquerading as Islamists and manipulated GIA groups through infiltration.

The questions surrounding the massacres received no conclusive answers. Through September, no independent Algerian body had conducted a thorough inquiry. The government allowed no international human rights organization or U.N. human rights rapporteur to investigate the violence.

The suspicions, however, were reinforced by interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch outside of Algeria and by others on the ground with survivors, witnesses from neighboring communities, rescue workers, journalists, and former security personnel. The attackers, numbering sometimes 200 or more, were found to have moved in and killed and departed freely through militarized areas, without any effort on the spot by the security forces to protect civilians or make arrests. At Rais, where the death toll on the night of August 29, 1997 reportedly reached 335, the killings began when men in military uniforms brazenly arrived in two open-backed trucks, firing on men playing dominoes at the entrance to the community, according to accounts that survivors gave to a rescue worker who arrived shortly after the attackers withdrew.

The attackers who killed over 250 people at Bentalha on the night of September 23, 1997 entered the community on foot through orange groves, but according to at least one account, some also arrived in open-backed trucks. Even after the arrival of the army, police, and communal guard on the perimeter of village, the killers were reportedly able to load spoils into trucks before departing unchallenged.

So, war wimps, lose those collywobbles and fight to win. We're moral universalists! We're liberators! We can kill who we want! Let's go all the way back to the good old days, when the Marines ran wild and free.

Filipinos first welcomed Americans as liberators. But in June when Aguinaldo issued a declaration of independence, the pro-war U.S. press began to demonize Aguinaldo, and a U.S. general told Congress that Filipinos who wanted freedom had "no more idea of its meaning than a shepherd dog."

President McKinley said he spent many sleepless nights agonizing about the Philippines until God told him to keep the islands and "uplift and civilize and Christianize them." The President called his program "benevolent assimilation." The influential San Franciso Argonaut was more candid: "We do not want the Filipinos. We want the Philippines. The islands are enormously rich, but unfortunately, they are infested with Filipinos."

A U.S. army of 70,000 [including 6,000 Black troops] was sent to pacify the islands and, as more than one white soldier said, "just itching to get at the niggers." General William Shafter told a journalist it might be necessary to kill half the population to bring "perfect justice" to the other half. After General Jack Smith promised to turn the Philippines into a "howling wilderness" most casualties were civilians. Smith defined the foe as any male or female "ten years and up," and told his soldiers: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me."