RANGER AGAINST WAR: Abject Zombies <

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Abject Zombies

Rainer Hachfeld (Neues Deutschland)

The purpose of Man’s life is to become an abject zombie

who serves a purpose he does not know,

for reaso
ns he is not to question
--
For the New Intellectual, Ayn Rand

Hiding places are innumerable, escape is only one,

but possibilities of escape, again,

are as many as hiding places

--Franz Kafka


Now over at the temple

Oh! they really pack em in

The in crowd say its cool

To dig this chanting thing
--Rock the Casbah
, The Clash

_______________

The Battle of the Casbah is a memoir by General Paul Aussaresses, who served as lead military intelligence officer for the French Army unit fighting the FLN in the Algierian War from1955-7.

The book is described as a "disturbing and sensational memoir" by The Wall Street Journal. It is that, but they declined to draw the clear parallels from Aussaresses' interrogation procedures in the 1950's to those of the U.S. today.


The book is disturbing precisely because this is where George Bush & Co.
wanted to take America in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©). The narrative details the military aspects of Counter Insurgency, but quickly passes into the illegal activities growing out of that process, like kidnapping, assassination, torture and execution.

The saddest part of
Casbah is that General Aussaresses is not only unrepentant, but actually quite boastful about participating in these events. As a French officer who also fought the Nazi's, it is ironic that he cannot see he is importing the German's savageries upon his own subjects, the Muslim Algerians.

Also interesting is that all of the pictured insurgents appear westernized. This parallels the current reality of the al-Qaeda operatives who actually pose a credible threat to America. They are westernized and can navigate our pathways.


The simple rilfleman and military arm of al-Qaeda training and graduating from the supposed military camps are not a significant threat to the U.S. The skill sets are not interchangeable.


General Aussaresses espouses a combination of intelligence work, torture and summary executions to suppress an insurgency. Though he admits torture is a particularly cruel form of psychological terror, he fails to connect the dots equating French tactics as being every bit as cruel and inhumane as those of the terrorists against whom he is working.


Writes Aussaresses, "The methods that I used were always the same: beatings, electric shocks, and, in particular, water torture, which was the most dangerous technique for the prisoner. It never lasted for more than one hour and the suspects would speak in the hope of saving their own lives. They would therefore either talk quickly or never (128)."

The cruelties expressed in this book are totally reprehensible. As we know, water boarding was also a U.S.-approved method of extracting cooperation form "suspects".

At least Aussaresses knew when to call it a day.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

I was once told by my spiritual mentor that sometimes it's necessary to walk the dark paths to understand the mind that lives there, he also warned me that excising that path from one's psyche can be very grueling surgery on the spirit.
I've already gone through one period of time where I had to go through an intense self-examination to purge my mind of things I'm better off not knowing about...I'm not sure I have it in me to go through that again.
I don't know if I'm making sense, but I hope you understand if I take a pass on this book.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 4:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

sheerahkhan,
The only reason that I read this book is b/c the author taught as a guest lecturer at Ft's Bragg and Benning . He also worked as a consultant to the US military. I wanted to see how he stacked up.

This stuff is hard to read and to synthesize.
jim

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 6:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Fasteddiez said...

Sheerah:

It's a good book. The whole thing is not about torture.

In a nutshell, my take: Aussaresses, Trinquier, and Massu won the battle of Algiers (during that short space in time)....then the war was lost. Oh, I forgot everyone's favorite COIN guy, Galula, was in the countryside somewhere.

Every OAS cell member in Algiers (operational) not killed during battle/capture was put to death. Aussaresses, himself, hung one important leader (Aussaresses was probably a major at the time {commandant) he did not want his men to do something he was not willing to do). They captured a lot of the OAS support structure personnel, which helped with rolling up the operator/bombers, or freedom fighters terrorists, blah blah...whatever you want to call them. The support people were not sentenced to death.

As a former HUMINT guy, and grunt, I support the old and newer field manual on interrogation which outlaws torture like behavior by DoD personnel. I also read a lot of books related to the subject (Hans Scharff's The Interrogator was our our Bible). The manner in which the French did business, was an accepted format at the time. The Brits did the same with the Mau Mau.

Furthermore, unlike, Morocco, Tunisia, and Vietnam, all of which they had recently lost after pointed battles, Algeria was a territory of France; the military did not wish to be rolled up there.

DeGaule's ascension to the new Republic caused a Generals' Putsch, which he put down. Camus and other famous/influential intellectuals were instrumental in changing the citizens' perceptions of the struggle in Algeria when the OAS and the Algerians (writ large) launched an offensive one year or so after their loss in the Battle of Algiers.

The French gave them their independence. I don't think it is ludicrous to say that the French people, having witnessed first hand the capabilities of the Gestapo and SS, did not want their Republic to stand for Torture.

How would Americans vote on the issue, if it were put to a Plebiscite? Would the Bed Wetters win the day?

PS Herr Scharff came to visit and lecture our unit at Camp Pendleton some months before his death. I was disappointed that I did not see him, since I was in 29 Stumps, shooting Commie weapons.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 6:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

sheerahkahn,

I'm interested in your "dark night of the soul" (?) Can you share anything about it? [If not, I apologize for being too intrusive.]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 7:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

I've found that I can absorb material from studying it, and then synthesize the information that touches me on both the emotional and intellectual level.
The problem for me is that I'm also extemely intuitive, and therein lies my problem...I can actually see myself in the same position doing the same things.
I put myself in the other persons shoes, and I realize that, in reality, we're not so different.
A series of choices is always before us, and sometimes we as people...choose...um...from my vantage point right now as an adult...poorly.
It is those poor decisions of the past that lead us to our dire crossroads in the present...and so...yeah.
Rationalization without self-reflection is a key ingredient to the poor decisions, but whats even more shocking is the unthought realization, that unfortunately comes later, that one can set aside the humanity of oneself, and the target of one's "attention."
I have a deep appreciation for the beauty and magnificence of G-d's creation, and I feel that this book, and I do believe you FastEddie that this is an amazing book...anyway, I think this book will take me back to the time of my life where people were just objects in my life, just as I was an object...I just don't want to go back there ever.again.

Lisa, it's kind of complicated to explain, and yet simple to understand.
I was an angry young man, but with no knowledge of why I was angry, why I was...hateful, and so when I got older and changes were wrought in my life I had episodic explosions of anger. It was then that I decided it was time to find out "what the hell?"
I explored that side of my younger self, and so I made contact with old friendships that perhaps was not the wisest of things to do as I think about it. But I did learn something about myself when I was a hateful little child, and as a mature adult...and as a follower of G-d.
People have inherent worth regardless of their spiritual or human state of being, or even whatever their religious preference may be.
I guess, to render it down to a simple idea...I learn what it meant when G-d says to humanity, "I love you."
I'd rather hold on to that, and live in that than return to what I once was.
Yeah, regrets...life is always full of regrets, and I have more than my fair share.
I also think this is why I study Biblical, ancient and Medieval history...I can intellectually separate myself emotionaly from the people of the past...not so much when they're nearer to my age, or life.
I know hate has no expiration date, but allow me this one self-deception.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Sheerahkahn,

Thank you for sharing. I believe I understand you very well. I, too, "have a deep appreciation for the beauty" that surrounds us, and also a deep sorrow for the miseries. It is an immediate apprehension, and does not arise out of contemplation.

In simplistic terms, "the observer is the observed" (Krishnamurti). When you have a visceral understanding of this reality, you are forever changed. Pettiness and game playing is a weight you cannot bear.

Our actual project has been expressed many ways. Thich Nhat Hanh said "we are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness." Wrath (or anger) is one of the Seven Deadly sins. People are not tools for our benefit. It is nice to see your evolution.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 11:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

This goes to the heart of my real problems with the new power of the "COINistas" in the U.S. Army.

Fuck whatever the FMs say and the talking heads pretend. The only way a foreign occupier can win a guerilla war against the natives is the way the French did and the British did and the Romans did. You make a fucking wasteland and call it peace. It isn't speculation and it isn't tough talking. It works. When you kill and torture and rape and brutalize enough of the locals, they lie down.

BUT...what it does to your troops, and to your nation, is nasty and hard to reverse. Your soldiers become thugs in uniform. Accustomed to degrading foreigners, they become innured to the idea of using force on and degrading their own countrymen - hence the "Revolt of the Generals".

We did this in the 1890s and 1900s in the Philippines and in the 20's and 30's in Central America, but with a tiny Army that was pretty much an afterthought to most Americans of the day. And in a country that was incomparably more racist and more brutal and less egalitarian than ours is today, as many problems as we do have.

I can't see a way to become the COIN colossus without having these same problems.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 4:46:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is the same French officer who was interviewed by Soldier of Fortune magazine circa 2001,post-9/11 ... favorable interview that had me wondering what was to come. Now we know.

GSJ

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 5:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My memory served me correctly (for a change). For those who may be interested in the interview with Soldier of Fortune, it may be found in the December 2001 issue.

GSJ

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 6:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Fasteddiez said...

FD Chief:

RE; the Interrogation manuals:

Torture like behavior is effective when you want to get confessions of guilt from people (NKVD in 1930's, and just about every one else today). It is also useful if you catch a perp with Physical evidence. He/she cannot deny guilt. You put pressure on that person or others related to Them, in order to get the next person on the importance scale; hence Aussarrese's rolling up of the 3 man cell structure all the way up to Ali La pointe (Ali the point)...in the pointless forrest, no doubt...with Oblio and Arrow...I digress.

for getting long term intel with a suspect, I prefer neutral to friendly approaches. The problem is they take time. Cheney was probably breathing fire on assholes like Casey and the Frito Bandito, and used hacks like Geoffrey Miller to bust balls. Some one needs to tell the polls to eat it, since they do not know shit from shinola about this stuff.

You are right about what this does to the average person vis-a-vis dehumanization. It won't do it to me. I am the type of person who can use all the hail fellow well met approaches on a suspected war criminal if I think usable information can be gleaned over time.

At the same time, I can do like the camp SS officer fella' in the Nazi picture (that I can't name), who breaks out his Mauser to shoot some poor Schmuck behind the wire...just for general principle.

In Vietnam, an attached sniper once told me that whenever possible, in the field, they would shoot a wood cutter in the morning, before moving out, so as to test the windage for that space in time. When I heard that, I thought that it was a most sensible policy. And so it goes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

it would be hard to find a tougher COIN opponent than the apache. the crook/miles campaign against cochise, taza, mangus, nana, and geronimo took twenty seven years. it also still stands as the most expensive campaign in american history. it cost nearly 28K in 1870 dollars per apache killed or captured.

miles was absolutely ruthless. he was capable of explaining the collateral deaths of apache children by saying "nits grow to lice." when the campaign finally ended with geronimo's surrender miles disbanded the apache scouts and imprisoned many of them along with the renegades. (apache culture is pretty unique in our being able to get along with apache from the other side of a war when the war is over, it might have been that miles didn't understand that)

his campaign in the phillipines later was a textbook application of every tool in the book. he did not approve of atrocity or torture, but he was very capable of putting his telescope up to a blind eye when he felt it suited his purpose.

there are some real and tangible dangers to an "anything it takes" strategy. i know that there are times that is absolutely called for, but one of the lessons learned should be never putting yourself or your command in that kind of a situation.

Friday, March 27, 2009 at 2:21:00 PM GMT-5  

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