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The War Nerd February 20, 2003
Algeria: The Psychos Will Inherit the Earth
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 4
So Algeria is having a war nobody wants to know about. It's like that old hippie saying, "What if they held a war and nobody came?" Except it's more like "What if they held ten years of non-stop massacres and nobody cared?" Since nobody cares, nobody writes about it. So it's hard getting any decent info on Algeria, especially in English. The good stuff seems to be in French, and I'm proud to say I don't speak a word of that poodle-talk. Finding out about Algeria was tougher than any other war I've done, but I've got it taped now.

First thing to keep in mind is that Algeria's always been a bloody place, even before it was "Algeria." Piracy was the main business on the North African coast. That's where we get that line about "the shores of Tripoli" in the Marine Corps hymn. Tripoli is in Libya, and it was the sort of place you had to send the Marines into from time to time to rescue merchant ships that had got a little too close to the North African coast and been captured for ransom.

Violence is normal in Algeria. (Fact is, it's normal all over the world. We just don't like to admit it.)

Algeria also has a weird geography that makes it easier to understand why they like to fight so much. It's a huge country but nine-tenths of it is useless Sahara sand. Everybody lives on the Mediterranean coast or in the mountains near the coast. That means there's not really much land. And the birthrate is incredible. When Algeria kicked out the French in 1962, there were about ten million people. Now there are thirty million. Three quarters of the population is under 25. Too many kids plus Islam equals a lot of dumb boys who want to be jihadis. Just think about it: a country where the whole "silent majority" is high-school age. I don't know about you, but for me high school was the closest thing to Hell on earth. A whole country of high-school kids is bad enough, but Islamic high-school kids -- it's like that novel Lord of the Flies only with a bigger weapons budget.

So all the kids want to be Jihadis, but the old men running the country have other ideas. They're anti-religious old Commies, and they had their own war, a Commie-led war for independence from the French, 1954-1962. The poor sad French were trying to hang onto a little scrap of their Empire, and Algeria was their last stand. It was one of the few colonies they managed to settle in big numbers. There were a couple million French colonists living in Algeria, and the French put everything they had into holding on to it. If you ever run into a Frenchman who was born between 1930 and 1940, ask him if he was in Algeria. If he says no, he's probably lying.

The war was a bloody mess, maybe a million dead altogether, mostly Algerians. That's typical for guerrilla warfare: you expect to kill about ten natives for every soldier you lose. And even that doesn't mean you're going to stamp out the revolt. We killed maybe 12 Vietnamese for every G.I. who died, and we still lost. Same with Algeria: the French killed a whole lot of Algerians, but the Algerians just wanted it more than the French did. So they kept on coming, and the war ended with the French running for the docks. A million French settlers scrambled onto the boats just as the FLN, the Algerian revolutionary commies, marched into Algiers.

The FLN did the usual thing for Commie "National Liberation" movements: tortured all the "collaborators" to death, voted themselves into power for life and started up a good secret police. And that was about all.

Algeria went into a socialist coma, the kind where there are lots of big posters and revolutionary slogans, but you can't buy a decent pair of shoes. The only thing that kept the place running was money from the oil and natural gas down in the Sahara. There was enough coming in from that to keep the ex-revolutionaries in caviar and Cadillacs, with enough left over to keep the rest of the population from actually starving.

But by 1990, things were bad. Oil revenues were down, and Commies everywhere were in full retreat. The Algerian generals were getting nervous. The kids were into Islam, not Marx. Western pressure led to elections in 1991. The Islamists were leading and would've won. But the generals decided to cancel the elections. That's when it turned into all-out war between the Islamists and the Army.

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Gary Brecher
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