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November 10, 2005
A Brief History of Paris (Part II)By Greyhawk
Let's pause a moment on our trip through the past to visit Paris today, and salute some under appreciated heroes - for they are certainly no less than that.
Wish them well.
We've turned around at the Arc de Triomphe and are returning along the Champs Elysee back towards the Place de la Concord. In the distant haze we can just make out the obelisk from Luxor. Along the way we note streets with familiar names - Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt and Avenue Winston Churchill both intersect Paris' most well known boulevard. Between the two you'll find the Grand Palais
And in front of that strides Charles de Gaulle
As allied armies approached Paris in 1944, the situation in the city was chaotic. French partisans were fighting the Germans in the streets, but factions within the resistance were far from united. Communists vied with De Gaulle's supporters to claim the role of liberators of Paris, and to declare themselves the rightful new government of France.
Back in the capital, the head of the Communist resistance, "Colonel Rol," was doing his best to disrupt the truce his Gaullist rivals were managing to impose. Issuing orders to his men to attack Germans at every opportunity, he denounced the cease-fire as a ruse to "exterminate the working classes of Paris," and permit "those stirred by hatred and fear of the people to work their dirty deals." Rol was uninterested in sparing the city from destruction; he wanted only to establish his faction as the ruling government. "Paris," he declared, "is worth 200,000 dead."He was paraphrasing King Henri IV, a Protestant who converted to Catholicism to take the crown in 1594, claiming Paris vaut bien une messe (Paris is worth a mass). But in 1944, it was de Gaulle and not Rol who would march in triumph down the Champs Elysee into history.
But he would hold the title of provisional president only until 1946, then resign and be replaced by Socialist F鬩x Gouin. This was the beginning of the French Fourth Republic - an era that would last only until 1958.
During the Fourth Republic the French Empire died a violent death. In 1954 the debacle at Dien Bien Phu would mark the end of "French Indochina" (and the beginning of increased US involvement in Vietnam.) And one year later would see the beginning of the Algerian War of Independence, a conflict noted for acts and accusations of terrorism, massacres, and atrocities committed by all sides. Launched by the Algerian Front de Lib鲡tion Nationale (FLN) the war became a complex struggle, with the Mouvement National Alg鲩en (MNA) forming a third faction in the struggle for wresting control of the nation
In the early morning hours of All Saints' Day, November 1, 1954, FLN maquisards (guerrillas) launched attacks in various parts of Algeria against military installations, police posts, warehouses, communications facilities, and public utilities. From Cairo, the FLN broadcast a proclamation calling on Muslims in Algeria to join in a national struggle for the "restoration of the Algerian state, sovereign, democratic, and social, within the framework of the principles of Islam." The French minister of interior, socialist Fran篩s Mitterrand, responded sharply that "the only possible negotiation is war."And so war it was - and not limited to Algerian soil. Guerilla battles between the FLN and MNA in France would result in 5,000 deaths.
By 1958 the war had destabilized the French government, and the Army feared a repeat of the humiliation of Dien Bien Phu. A coup d'鴡t was planned to return de Gaulle to power - if other methods failed. French paratroopers from Algeria were positioned on Corsica, awaiting orders to seize Paris. Those orders never came; the French Parliament affirmed de Gaulle as leader of France:
De Gaulle immediately appointed a committee to draft a new constitution for France's Fifth Republic, which would be declared early the next year, with which Algeria would be associated but of which it would not form an integral part. All Muslims, including women, were registered for the first time on electoral rolls to participate in a referendum to be held on the new constitution in September 1958.At that same time the French military had gained effective control of Algeria, so politically and militarily the situation seemed to be improving. Faith in de Gaulle appeared to be well placed.
But other factors would ultimately influence a different result.
The FLN had cultivated staunch allies in the United Nations - specifically gaining support of Arab and communist nations. Meanwhile, France's commitment of a large faction of it's army to Algeria was cause for concern among it's NATO allies. And on the home front,
...opposition to the conflict was growing among many segments of the population. Thousands of relatives of conscripts and reserve soldiers suffered loss and pain; revelations of torture and the indiscriminate brutality the army visited on the Muslim population prompted widespread revulsion; and a significant constituency supported the principle of national liberation.Of course, the FLN saw lack of popular support as no reason to reduce acts of violence. Meanwhile, de Gaulle's political opponents (who's policies had led to the crisis in the first place) were waiting in the wings to resume their control of the government.*
More to come...
* The suspicious-minded reader might note that these conditions by which defeat was snatched from the jaws of possible victory in Algeria seem eerily similar to the narrative the media attempts to construct today regarding US involvement in Iraq. (A narrative we debunk on a regular basis here.) Indeed, essential elements are virtually identical, (torture, suffering soldiers and their families, conscription) but we are sure this is merely an amazing coincidence.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 10, 2005 9:00 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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