Guerrillas Unbeatable? »
The commander of
U.S. Central Command and U.S. forces in Iraq, General John Abizaid, said publicly that the
coalition troops are facing a classical guerrilla-type campaign from
insurgents whose tactics are growing more sophisticated. The officer directly in charge of Baghdad,
general William Wallace, stated that the enemy is melding into the population.
coalition forces facing a classic guerrilla warfare campaign in Iraq? Are the Iraqi people
letting the insurgents blend into their midst and are they supporting their activities
sine qua non conditions for a guerrilla success?
warfare is not peculiar to the present day or to any part of the
world; it is as old as humanity. The term guerrilla is Spanish for
little war. The word was first used by bands of Spanish soldiers who fought
against Napoleons French army in the Peninsular War of 1807-1814. But guerrilla has
always been a feature of wars fought by every class of men and
women against invaders, oppressors and superior military forces.
guerrilla systematization by Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, the carrying into
action of insurgencys theories and the advent of mass media, it is generally
believed that guerrilla warfare is a communist invention and undertaking. Large-scale
guerrilla fighting took place during the American Revolution. During World War II, France,
Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Italy, and Greece organized guerrilla forces. These
forces known as the underground and, in France, as the maquis,
conducted guerrilla operations and played a major role in the defeat of Germany. Since
World War II guerrilla warfare has been employed by nationalist groups to overthrow
colonialism and by dissidents to launch civil wars. There have been dozens of such
conflicts. The United States has sponsored guerrillas, most notably anti-Castro Cuban
forces and Nicaraguan contras.
warfare is deadly and the most cost effective if waged properly. The
many guerrilla wars in history have their points of difference, their peculiar
characteristics, their varying processes and conclusions but they all have one thing in
common: Guerrilla warfare is essentially a political war, a people war. It
basically derives from the populations and is supported by them; it can neither exist nor
succeed if it separates itself from their sympathies and cooperation. Consequently, it
should be summed up in a very simple goal, understandable by even the most backward and
illiterate segment of the population. The political objective must be concrete and clear
and should coincide with the aspirations of the people. Nationalism,
social injustice or oppression has always been prime motives for any insurgency movement.
These causes appeal to the people as well to the guerrilla, and bring the two
closer together, insuring the insurgents the support of the local population.
forces cannot successfully combat guerrilla operations. Insurgents are armed civilians
committed fanatically to a simple cause with minimum logistical need. Military victory is
meaningless; it does not take more than a handful of armed insurgents to keep the
guerrilla going, as long as the population is supporting it.
guerrilla insurgency really unbeatable? A guerrilla army is a very vulnerable
enterprise, at every stage of its evolution. What makes it appear invincible are the
methods brought upon to fight it. Fighting it as if it were an army serves its objectives!
once the insurgency starts, in most cases by terrorism acts (urban guerrilla), the
security forces resort to strong measures to counter it, mostly against suspected
terrorists... the people. The insurgents respond by further
provoking security forces into taking measures which are repressive or unpopular
(curfews, roadblocks, house to house searches, identification checks, detention of
suspects, etc.). These actions tend to swing the sympathies of the public against the
security forces and therefore supporting the insurgent cause. Provocation is then
intensified by all means available to force the enemy to adopt harsher methods such as
killing; bloodbath and destruction which create a vicious circle of violent aggressions
and brutal reactions that cement the relationship between the people and the insurgents
and insure the survival of the guerrilla. No life is spared to reach that crucial phase of
the guerrilla. It is the deadliest period of an insurgency. The guerrillas body
count reinforces the security forces belief that a military victory is the solution
because there are noticeable results.
fallacy of attempting a military victory over a guerrilla insurgency diverts the attention
from the real guerrilla weaknesses such as internal struggle for leadership. No
non-communist guerrilla start with a homogenous leadership due to its populist nature. In
some guerillas the infighting for leadership might last the duration of the insurrection
and, often, it degenerates into a civil war while fighting the security force as in the
case of the Algerian conflict. Numerous opportunities to negotiate transition to peace
with moderate guerrilla faction are wasted in the frenetic pursuit of military victory.
counter-guerrilla warfare share the dilemma the
French confronted in the Algerian war, which began in 1954 with a nationalist uprising
lead by the F.L.N.
The French were confident that they could overpower the insurgents with modern weaponry
and overwhelming force. However, over the course of almost eight years and a French
contingent of 830,000 troops, the French had to give up to about 10,000 F.L.N guerrillas
in spite of a French military victory.
I was part
of that long and bloody war.
Hardly one year after the beginning of the
Algerian insurrection and not yet sixteen years old, I joined the F.L.N. guerrilla called
maquis. I was a player as well as a witness to many events that weighed on the course of
the Algerian conflict.
to 1960, I was combatant in various guerilla
units, guerrilla coordinator at various
levels of command, Political Commissary and espionage, counter espionage and communication
contributed to the creation, development and organization of Wilaya 4 (Algiers and
the surrounding territory). From the six Wilaya of the insurgency territorial
organization, Wilaya 4 was at the center of the Algerian war. With Wilaya 3 (Kabylia
territory), they were the only areas where guerrilla leaders, regardless of their ranks,
lived with the people and fought alongside their men, from the beginning until the end of
leadership of colonel Si MHamed, Wilaya 4 became the model of the Algerian revolution.
It was the heart of the guerrilla where major events and their aftermath that transformed
Algeria and France took place.
F.L.N. leadership infighting of 1960, I was victim to the second wave of "purging";
I was apprehended and handed over to the S.C.I.C.E.,
acronym of an infernal instrument
of death by torture and summary execution.
Its preys were the so-called "treacherous French educated and intellectuals",
mostly former students who joined the rebellion after the students strike or
the "battle of Algiers". I know first hand the hellish cruelty of torture; my
agony began on April 19, 1960.
On May 6,
1960, and after more than two weeks of torture, I escaped and reached a nearby French
decided to continue the armed struggle against the F.L.N. which, by then, represented
neither the interest of the Algerian people nor the revolution such as it was conceived by
the revolutionaries of the first hour, defined and approved in the 1956 Soummam
Declaration », the guerrillas constitution. Most of the F.L.N. leaders became puppets under the
absolute control of a core of extremists called the "shirkers",
securely faraway from the war either in Morocco, or in Tunisia. The rise to power became
the only revolutionary criterion. Power at any price, by any means and the
elimination of all that remained faithful to the initial objective of the Algerian
military operation I initiated, Abdelatif was captured on May 7, 1960. I had been an
intelligence and communications officer in his team. It was the beginning of the famous « Si Salah
escape from the F.L.N. torture center, I was conscripted for military service in the
French Army. I passed the entrance exam to an Officer Military Academy, and after
graduation was commissioned second lieutenant. I then chose to serve in a
counter-guerrilla commando and in the area where I have been tortured and where the
S.C.I.C.E. was still wiping out the last educated and moderate revolutionaries.
there was no doubt that de Gaulles government intended to turn control of Algeria
over to the extremist faction of the F.L.N. As I felt this to be a critical mistake for
Algeria, I deserted the French army and joined the French O.A.S. in
March 1962 and opposed general de Gaulles Algerian policy. The O.A.S. was still
under the control of former French officers with whom I shared a vision for the future of
Algeria. Unfortunately, the radical wing of the organization outflanked these officers
with deadly consequences.
ambushed and made prisoner by the French army on April 1, 1962, sent to France, and
condemned on January 18, 1963 by a military tribunal and imprisoned in la Sante, Fresnes
and Rouen jailhouses. Subsequently, I was pardoned on January 29, 1965. I left France
definitively in June 1965 for the United States where I resumed my studies. After few
years in education as a college assistant professor and a career in business as a Vice
President of Marketing and International Operations in a multinational corporation, I
founded a consulting firm in international business development.
As a former guerrilla officer for
five years, I have always been disappointed by the absence of a major work on the nature
of guerrilla warfare and its outcome. Most writings are shaped by the political
orientation or military theories of their authors. This led me to write Are Guerrillas
Unbeatable? This 107,000 word plus, non-fiction manuscript is a story that captures
guerrilla evolution from inception to resolution, its strengths and weaknesses from the
account shows the reader what it really means to be a guerrilla. It is neither the
larger-than-life romantic epic nor the glorified revolutionary of communist propaganda but
the account of an average guy thrown into an extraordinary situation. It is a historical
document written to convey the power and drama of the guerrilla. It is a powerful book, as
authentic as any, heartrending and true, exciting and brutally tragic. It is an absolutely
authentic portrayal of the guerrilla existence as I lived it.
historical narrative, it is also a valuable document for researchers, public and college
libraries. It covers one aspect of warfare as well as the French and Algerian common
tormented history from 1954 to 1960.
place in a similar environment to Iraq: multi-ethnic, Arab and Muslim country.
Are Gerrillas Unbeatable ? is the author exclusive and active personnel involvement
as an officer in the Algerian guerrilla, the French counter-guerrilla and the O.A.S.
It is a
testimony on the events which shaped the development of the Algerian war; on the authentic
occasions for peace missed; on the admirable figures, too few, and the misleaders, too
many, from both sides.
It is also
the history of a combat without mercy for the control of the Algerian and European people
and the many imposters, each one with his "good and only" final solution,
ideology and expeditious method who launched out to conquer men and spirits. These leaders
found a fertile ground to their propaganda: two populations with a pathetic lack of
political polish and a total absence of democratic experience. The two communities were
pitched and tossed around from a utopian hope to an abysmal despair until losing the basic
sense of reality.
The aftermath of
unrealistic hopes were laden with atrocious consequences:
disappointed expectations, inexpiable hatreds, and inhuman exactions on both sides.
Drawn to despair, the two communities were played off against each other in murder and
revenge. The paroxysm of this hatred between the Algerian and European populations
culminated at the independence of Algeria. Indiscriminate slaughters of "the Arab"
and the policy of "scorched earth" by the remnant of the O.A.S., and
kidnappings and massacres of Pied-noirs and Harkis by the F.L.N.
I will not
develop in this book a complete chronology of the events or a history of the Algerian
guerrilla. The object of this book is to make known: the predominant episodes which
influenced the tragic end of the war; the existence of a democracy in Wilaya 4, its
eradication and the takeover process by a F.L.N. junta; the tragic moments of a civil war
between Algerians (F.L.N./M.N.A.), in co-occurrence with the Franco-Algerian
conflict; several murderous cases (Affaires): "Kobus", "Ben
Cherif", Si Salah; and the bloody purging, from 1954 to 1962.
scoop, I will bring out the truth about the origin and the unfolding of the "Si
of which I was a participant and a witness. The truth about this case was transformed by
versions more often determined by the sense that one wanted to give to history than by the
facts themselves. Since the Algerian independence, journalists and historians stacked up a
whole body of "details" which is almost impossible to avoid when this event is
evoked. The "Si Salah Case" reached such a scope and coverage and became
the great event of the Algerian war because it was closely related to General Charles de
Gaulles "treason", according to "his" opposition.
expose the devastation brought upon the Algerian people due to such buzzwords as
control of the populations, "psychological warfare" and tortures and
liquidations - by both sides to the conflict.
The Algiers Wilaya gave birth to a
"democracy" in Algeria in war; a revolutionary movement in search of a
negotiated peace instead of a costly military victory. The fundamental objectives of the
Algerian guerrilla, endorsed and ratified in the 1956 Soummam Declaration,
were to liberate Algeria from the colonial system, in the name of the Algerian people, and
to establish adequate infrastructures for the creation of a new country, based on
democratic principles (collegial making decision process). The recourse to armed action
was necessitated due to the refusal to grant any reform through pacific and political
means, since 1945, by an oppressive French colonial system.
The death in combat of MHamed and the misfortune of
Si Salah Case were the coup
de grace of this unparalleled and only democratic
experiment in the history of Algeria.
The attempts at annihilating the
Wilaya 4 democracy were numerous. The systematic destruction of any potential "valid
spokesperson", truly representing the people, was a common objective to the French
authorities and to the F.L.N. radicals, for different reasons.
situation was worsened by the relentless effort of the French authorities to impose a
"third force" (Algerians but not nationalists) who actually represented only
itself and its own interests.
4 was the embodiment of what Algeria could have been.
The seizure of power by the extremists of
leadership struggles and the seizure of power by the extremists changed the face of the
Algerian guerrilla. It instituted at the Algerian independence one of the most violent and
corrupt military dictatorship that modern history ever knew. The Algerian people are still
paying a very high price in blood and lack of freedom.
seizure of power by these radicals (the majority of these officers, and their troops, had
never fought in Algeria) was progressive and bloody. The plots, "coups
détat" and assassinations, which started from the very
start of the revolution, and intensified during the war, continued well after the Algerian
independence and until today.
Populations control and
war, counter-guerrilla, psychological warfare... all the revolutionary and
counter-revolutionary lexicon was usually used in this
unmentionable war. In spite of the revolutionary warfare theory and all the
over-simplifications and half-truths imported from Vietminh P.O.W. camps by some French
officers - whereas the Algerian revolutionaries were deeply anticommunists - the Algerian
war was a sociological conflict and the populations were the stakes. The purpose of all
was the exclusive control of the populations.
guerrilla or resistance movement is entirely dependent on the local population for food,
information (intelligence), recruits and the freedom of movement. The insurgent must be
able to rely on the people even if they do not actively support him. He must, to repeat
Mao Zetong, be able to live among them as fish in the water. Thus, if "the
revolutionary is in the people as fish in the water", to defeat him it is crucial to
cleanse the water. The French army started by destroying urban guerrilla cells, the
"battle of Algiers", then the F.L.N. wherever it was, that is many small
"battles of Algiers" throughout Algeria. Simultaneously, it was indispensable to
empty the greatest part of the territory of its population in order to asphyxiate the
revolutionaries; hundreds of thousands of peasants were moved and parked in miserable
regrouping centers and their villages, lands, mountains lay ruined and became
forbidden areas (Zones interdites).
And in a
war called officially "preserving law and order " in French territory
(Algeria was officially and legally three French departments), the Algerian combatant was
an outlaw, terrorist, and criminal, everything except a soldier. Consequently, all the
means of repression were good for his destruction, and his accomplices. The non-military
means such as torture became legitimate and were known to, and tacitly approved by, French
As for the
F.L.N. of origin, the Algerian people were his raison d'être. It is on their
behalf that the revolution had been undertaken. It is from the people that the F.L.N.
draws its army, its vitality and its survival. Without the support of the people the
F.L.N. will cease to exist. Consequently, a war without mercy was waged for the control of
the Algerian population. One side wanted to free it, the other to save it. One persuaded,
threatened, moved whole populations, tortured, raped, mutilated, liquidated... exactions
of all kinds and from all sides. Nothing was proscribed in that relentless battle, in that
Torture and liquidations
and liquidations were perpetrated on a large scale. All the participants conducted them,
before and after the "battle of Algiers". Torture and liquidations became
quite simply weapons in a war where the end justified the means.
purpose of torture was not only to stop terrorists from murdering innocent civilians for
the French; or to prevent the enemy from infiltrating the clandestine organization for the
F.L.N.; or to be used in a state of critical necessity. Torture was a method for gathering
information but also an institutionalized intimidation machine, used routinely and its
victims, in most cases, were summarily executed.
witnessed torture, torture was practiced under my command and I was tortured.
F.L.N. torture was also the prelude to purging, elimination, discrete executions and mass
slaughter. Torture and assassination became the procedure of choice for conflict
resolutions, not only against adversaries but also within the F.L.N. For the extremists
and the « marsiens» today in power, the Algerian people were nothing else
than human material available to serve their ambitions who, during the war, were sent
against the French army to be massacred and that now they are killed when they rise
against their dictatorship.
in F.L.N. Algeria, the only institution which functions well since independence is
torture, completed by political assassination.
The integral bankruptcy of Algeria since
independence impels us to a more critical analysis of the Algerian war from 1954 to 1962.
It is there where reside the seeds of dictatorship and brutality, which still prevail in
Algeria. To continue incriminating the French "colonialism" is a manner of
avoiding going at the bottom of the problems in order to establish responsibilities
because, although the reactionaries opposed any reform, the colonial system was already
breaking down in 1958.
be another falsehood to impute violence in Algeria to the national character and the
cultural heritage distinctive to Algerians. It is certain that the facts can support this
interpretation. Violence does not relate to a cultural determinism and is not the
inheritance of any society. Violence is in our humanity. Particular circumstances break it
loose and impose it to a society in one form or another.
Algerian guerrilla was based on democratic principles, defined by the revolutionaries of
the first hour in August 1956. Except for the propaganda part of this document, all
principles are stated in the Soummam Declaration. The original F.L.N. did not
share any affinity with the communist societies of the time nor with the corrupt feudal
and military autocracies of the Arab world.
happen to the F.L.N. during the war, which led independent Algeria to this material,
social, political and moral bankruptcy?
goal of this book is to bring some clarifications about the defeat of the original
guerrillas democracy and the extremists bloody march towards the usurpation of
power. Plots, "coups détat", purging, assassinations, massacres,
indiscriminate terrorism and tortures made up the arsenal.
the inhumanity that gangrened
both the F.L.N. and the French Army.
Are Guerrilla Unbeatable?
Table of Contents
Chapter I: First months in
Chapter II: The difficult beginning of the Revolution
Chapter III: The rapid expansion of the guerrilla
IV: The «Battle of Algiers»
Chapter V: «Coup détat» and «Civil War» within the F.L.N.
Chapter VI The Wilaya 4s peak and decline
Chapter VII: Torture
Chapter VIII: Evasion
Chapter IX: Surrender
Chapter X: The «Si Salah Case»
Chapter XI: The French Army
Chapter XII: The O.A.S.
Word of thanks
Appendix I: Soummam Declaration
Appendix II: Call to the Algerian people of November 1st,
Appendix III Wilaya 4
Original and unpublished pictures
Press Release: US State Department, Thursday, 17 July
2003, 11:36 am From the French Front de
Libération National (National Front for Liberation) that started the
military actions against the French. On November 1, 1954.
His real name was Boughara Ahmed. He was Commander
in chief of Wilaya 4, killed in battle on May 5 1959 in Ouled BouAchra, south of the city
From French Service de Contre Infiltration et
de Contre Espionnage (Counter Infiltration and Counter Intelligence Service)
the French planqués «. Name given by the Algerian revolutionaries to
those living in Morocco and in Tunisia.
Aka Abdellatif Tolba. He was the commander in chief
zone in Algiers Wilaya
« Affaire Si Salah », derived from
the name Salah, (his real name Mohammed Zammoum), then commander in chief of Wilaya 4.
Operation, which led to a meeting with general de Gaulle in Paris to negotiate his offer
of self-determination for the Algerian people.
the French Organisation de
lArmée Secrète (Organization of the Secret Army)
Europeans inhabitants of Algeria
Auxiliary. From Harka, an auxiliary French military forces composed of Algerians
the French: Mouvement Nationaliste Algérien
(Algerian National Movement), a nationalist political party
« Affaire Si Salah »
the French word for the month of March = mars. Name given by the revolutionaries to
Algerian officers and non-commissioned officers in the French Army who joined the F.L.N.
" planqués/shirkers" after the cease-fire on
March 18, 1962. They suddenly became freedom fighters.
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