Friday, January 16, 2004

Dreaming of the Battle of Algiers. A fascinating movie review of The Battle of Algiers over at paleo-lefty journal The American Prospect. It gives a fascinating insight into the way in which Leftists today are simply incapable of looking at the world as it is, and instead insist on seeing it through the lens of their Leftist past. Check this out:

The first half of The Battle of Algiers is the Panther primer. The movie begins in medias res, with the French army having tortured a pitiful Algerian informer to reveal the lair of the last extant urban guerrilla leader, Ali. It then jumps back three years to show Ali's political awakening and recruitment into the National Liberation Front (FLN), usually referred to in the film as "the Organization." As Ali's previously inchoate rage is instrumentalized in revolutionary struggle, so the Organization cleans up vice in the casbah and launches a campaign of assassination carried out largely by women and children against the French police.

The casbah -- occasionally referred to in the subtitles as "the ghetto" -- is sealed from the rest of the city, and elements in the colonial administration set off a devastating explosion within it. Pressed by the enraged Arabs, the Organization takes revenge. In the movie's crucial sequence, three fetching revolutionary women adopt Western clothes. They make their way through the checkpoint, one with a child in tow, to set off simultaneous bombs in the commercial heart of European Algiers. Pontecorvo individualizes both terrorists and victims -- and makes sure that the terrorists acknowledge those whom they are about to vaporize. Where once this sequence might have suggested tragic necessity, it's impossible to watch it now without recalling the images of suicide bus bombings and the Twin Towers collapse. Our moment of danger is September 11, the day The Battle of Algiers came home. The FLN now seems the cradle of Middle Eastern terror. As the Pentagon flier put it: "Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in caf├ęs. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar?"

Actually, no, it does not. The American invasion of Iraq has not brought colonists with it, nor turned Iraq into a permanent part of the United States. It does not seek to impose foreign rule in perpetuity. In fact, it deposed a dictator who was universally considered, even by the Chomskyite Left, one of the most odious murderers of recent times. The only major area of trouble is the middle third of the country, and even there unrest is clearly the product of a violent minority which lacks the support of the larger population. The major US mistep may prove to be not staying too long, but leaving too early. What strikes one about the Algerian War is how little it has in common with the situation in Iraq today.

What is really striking about the attitude of this reviewer, however, is how quickly it morphs into political evil. For what this review, like the film it aggrandizes, utterly and deliberately ignores is the horrifying monster that Algeria has become: a brutal, oppressive police state which has rejected democracy in favor of military rule and which, a scant few years after its independence, viciously cleansed itself of its ancient, hundred thousand strong Jewish population. An honest look at the horrendous implications of the movement which is herein mythologized: the rise of Arab supremacism, the institution of military dictatorship, the embrace of genocidal anti-semitism, and most of all, the sanctification of terrorism, can find no place in the cosmology of Third World resistance and glorious revolt against colonial (read: white European) oppression. In the rush to validate arrogant, obsolete views of the world, truth is left behind, and murder raised on its pedestal. This is not ideological blindness, this is the nostalgia of slaughter.