Four decades ago Alastair Horne wrote a book on the Algerian Civil
War. The volume is called Savage War for Peace. It has
recently been republished with a new and telling preface by its author,
now Sir Alastair. The Algerian rebels were not in any substantial
sense then fighting for Islam, although of course they were fighting
against the French. The FLN (National Liberation Front) understood
that it could not engage the French army and its many Algerian soldiers
and supporters (Algeria was, after all, a regular departement de la
patrie). So it initiated an irregular war against the civilian
population as well as the gendarmerie.
The word "savage" in the book's title was altogether
appropriate for the rebellion, and the French retaliated in
It is not inapt now. Horne makes the point that in Iraq the savagery is being repeated: "...in many ways the horrors in Algeria's civil war do read like a paradigm of its own civil war, a microcosm of present-day Islam's inadequacy to meet the challenges of the modern world." Algeria has been independent for four decades. During the nineties, another vicious civil war played out a different scenario, one between the Islamists and the army. It petered out but it has not really ended, as yesterday's events remind us. On any rational calculus, its civil and economic life has gone backward, despite large holdings and production of oil.
We woke up this morning to read and hear of two suicide bomb attacks in Algiers, the country's capital. One of the places targeted was the headquarters of various United Nations agencies, situated in a rich neighborhood. The other bomb went off near a government bombing. Casualty statistics are as low as 37 dead and as high as the mid-60s. Who knows how many maimed and wounded. These last are the people who haunt war-torn societies just by their very presence. It is a evocation of savagery rampant in the Muslim world.
Another savage enactment occurred yesterday in the southern Iraqi Shi'a town of Amara. Forty odd dead, maybe 150 injured, only God knows how seriously and permanently. So this time it was not Sunni killing Shi'a. It was Shi'a blowing up Shi'a. The first bomb went off and people ran to the rescue. Five minutes later a second bomb went off, now to ensnare the rescuers. And then a third. Savagery, satanic savagery.
A third car-bombing incident rocked Beirut today. It was not one of those helter-skelter don't care who is murdered events. This one was aimed at a military figure who seemed destined to succeed to the position of army chief of staff. He was killed, and an aide, too. Everybody assumes this is another in the long line of victims of Syrian meddling in Lebanese politics. I have no reason to think otherwise. Yes, Syria has not been able to make peace with Lebanon for seventy years. But the peace intoxicants believe it will easily settle with Israel.
Yes, I know, most of the disasters in the Arab world and the cult of death among the Muslims can be traced to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, especially to the remote settlements and the illegal outposts with which, for the record, I have never had much fraternal feeling. I feel embarrassed saying this, as if I need to cover my ass. The cataclysms that rock the Muslim and Arab orbits have nothing to do with Israel. Nothing.