International

Algiers then and Baghdad now

The Battle of Algiers— an iconic film in left-wing circles in the ’60s and ’70s– was recently screened for the brass at the Pentagon.

It seems some higher-up with a sense of history (perhaps a former leftie?) decided that the movie– an astonishingly documentary-like account of the 1950s guerilla war against French colonial forces in Algeria– holds some lessons for American forces in Iraq.

I haven’t seen the movie for many years, but I remember it well enough to advise anyone who cares about politics and recent history to rent it without further ado. (Do university film societies still screen it?)

The Washington Post’s movie reviewer finds the brutal events depicted in The Battle of Algiers a precursor of events to come in Iraq and possibly other countries. I hope, and still think, that there’s a fundamental difference between the French desperately trying to hang onto one of their last remaining colonies in the 1950s and the Americans and British liberating a country from a brutal dictator and facilitating its transition to self-government. Obviously the recent attacks by Iraqi guerillas are designed to foil the American-British plan and create in its place a situation more akin to Algiers circa 1956.

All the more reason for a sense of urgency about the reconstruction of Iraq.

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