January 18, 2007

Horne on Algeria, Iraq and Rumsfeld

Horne on Algeria, Iraq and Rumsfeld

Yesterday Maureen Dowd wrote that the President is reading Alistair Horne’s “A Savage War of Peace,” an account of the French twentieth-century experience of fighting Muslim guerillas in Algeria. Henry Kissinger had recommended it to him.

It is not the first time the administration has had a copy in its hands; Horne sent one to Donald Rumsfeld, as he told us when we interviewed him for a show last week about the possibility of leaving Iraq:

Click to Listen to Alistair Horne on Algeria and Iraq (15 minutes)

I was asked to send it to him, and I thought, rather impudently … it’s 700 pages, I thought I would simplify things for him by underlining one or two points … and this was largely around the time of Abu Ghraib. And I pointed out to him that the whole question of abuse and torture is no no no … the French won the Battle of Algiers, you may have seen that famous film, through the use of torture, but they lost the war through it.

And he took this rather badly, ‘Well we don’t torture.’ And I said, ‘No, I know, but the dangers are, that if these things occur, it’s worse than Algeria thirty years ago because now it appears immediately on the media. …

I was asked to send it to him by his office, I was supposed to go in and have a lunch with him, it was unfortunate, but it was the day the good Pope chose to be enthroned, or whatever Popes do, and so there was no news spot for Rumsfeld on the front page of the Washington Post, and no lunch.

And I just left the book, and then we had a correspondence, it was rather heated … he thought I was attacking, and I probably shouldn’t have sidelined those portions, and I did, and then I got a very conciliatory and sensible letter back from him, I mean obviously he appreciates the propaganda nature which I just outlined.

Alistair Horne on Open Source, January 10, 2007

Horne draws an extensive and alarming comparison between the two conflicts: compromised local police, porous borders. He offers, as a historian’s counsel, Tallyrand’s dictum during the Napoleonic Wars: “Wherever there’s trouble, look for a priest.”

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  • OliverCranglesParrot

    Thank you for publishing this. Here’s another short interview:

    A Savage War interview

  • Henry

    Fantastic, guys. Brendan, I think this is a wonderful way to point in the direction of an important clip (as you well know). Reading this site and listening to this show would be greatly augmented by stuff like this on a regular basis. Thanks!

  • herbert browne

    In the latest Harper’s, Edward Luttwak also mentions Algeria in a critique of a recent update of a U.S. “counterinsurgency” manual (FM 3-24 DRAFT). One signifigant change, in his view, is in a comparison of the list of “selected readings” from the earlier manual (FM 3-07.22), in which the first selection was “The Battle of the Casbah:Terrorism & Counterterrorism in Algeria, 1955-57” by Paul Aussaresses. The entire article carries out a useful analysis of the political characteristics of insurgencies (& of insurgents, which word probably delineates more closely the situation in Iraq, rather than the term “guerilla”). Keep shining the light on this…


  • Tom B

    Dare I mention the fact that Alistair Horne, Henry Kissinger, Thomas Ricks and Andrew Bacevich appeared on The Charlie Rose Show on Jan. 19th? The spotlight now seems to be shining on both Mr. Horne’s book and the classic film, ‘The Battle for Algiers’. Curiously, Kissinger admitted he’d not seen this film! And no one seemed to know if GW has seen it….

  • Tom B

    Hmmm… Ordered Alistair Horne’s book on amazon.com, and it won’t ship for another two weeks. (Tom Rick’s ‘Fiasco’ — ordered at the same time — shot out their door and arrived in just a few days.) FYI, folks …