La guerre sale

Why the Left actually loves the (Global) War on Terror

We fear the night
We praise the day
Watch the beach
Evade the wave
It’s the somewhat rich
that we somewhat adore
It’s the harmless
non-white,
the poor, we deplore.
We issue medals
(oh, how proudly we wave)
camouflaged pop stars
singing their praise
Passing in silence
the villages we razed
Blessing our murderers,
Our leaders depraved
“Don’t call it aggression
Oh, how we hate that expression!”1
At the CIA’s dirty wars2
we only sneer
so for the CIA’s clean wars
we can revel and cheer.

  1. This rhyme comes from Tom Lehrer’s homage to the SCUM []
  2. The term “dirty war” (Fr. la guerre sale) is deliberately confusing jargon. First of all it suggests that there is another kind of war which is somehow nice. The compatible Left generally decries “imperial arrogance” (I get tired of reading this cliché) when they apparently mean the “empire should be more polite in its oppression”. They deplore “counter-productive interventions” which means they support “productive invasions”. In short they would really like their rulers to subjugate the world without blemishes to their conscience.
    La guerre sale is the French expression for their war in Algeria (1954-1962). At the height of the French (Fourth Republic) war against the people it had ruled in Algeria, through a combination of white colonisation and archconservative Muslim clericism, France was waging a major counter-insurgency (i.e. terrorist war against the local population) to prevent independence. French army officers analyzed this war and their ideas had a major influence on the formulation of US terror doctrine as applied in Vietnam (1954 – 1975) and today in Afghanistan etc. The standard work– published by the regime’s think tank, RAND– is Pacification in Algeria 1956-1958 by David Galula. A dramatisation of the doctrine can be found in the classic film Battle of Algiers . The “dirty war” was the propaganda term used to justify the concentrated population control measures that in the US evolved into the CIA Phoenix Program– and have become the template for US imperial invasion and power. It was alleged that the independence movement, in Algeria the FLN, was conducting a “dirty war” to which the French Army had to respond in kind. This is a deliberate distortion of the facts. The FLN was fighting a resistance war against the militarily and financially superior French state. But the other result of adopting this misleading term in official jargon is to suggest that imperial wars or state terrorism against domestic opposition (e.g. in Argentina, Brazil, Chile et al.) are acceptable, if they are only clean. In other words, the very terms of war itself are not to be questioned. []

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa (Maisonneuve Press, 2003). Read other articles by T.P..