The beheadings, sexual violence, torture and militant secularism of colonial France draws a contemporary parallel.

The sheer level of arrogance pouring out of the Elysee Palace in recent weeks, months, and even years, is mind-boggling. France has, once again, denounced another country – a NATO ally no less – and described its actions as “criminal”. 

But what is truly criminal is the idea of French exceptionalism whereby Paris feels it is at perfect liberty to literally behead Africans and keep their skulls in museums and then lecture the rest of the world on what is and is not criminal. 

A secular version of Daesh?

Nowhere was this better highlighted than in the return of 24 skulls of slain Algerian freedom fighters by the French on the occasion of Algeria’s Independence Day celebrations on 5 July. 

Algiers held a ceremony for the anti-colonial fighters and laid their remains to rest in a sombre ceremony on the 58th anniversary of Algerian independence befitting those who paid the ultimate price for freedom and self-determination from savage European colonialism.

But the ultimate tragedy is that the repatriation of these skulls was more of an insult to the Algerians than a gesture of contrition by the French authorities who, to this day, hold a grim collection of 18,000 skulls brought from territories from all over the world that France terrorised, subjugated, and butchered. 

In other words, Paris behaves like any number of brutal serial killers who enjoy keeping trophies of their victims.

Algeria suffered under French colonialism for 132 years from 1830 until 1962, and Algerian estimates suggest that 1.5 million Algerians died of war-related deaths in the nearly eight years of struggle for independence and resistance against French barbarity. That obviously does not account for the murder and depravity suffered by Algerians at the hands of the French occupation for the preceding 124 years of occupation, and that depravity was absolutely staggering and totally institutionalised in its reach.

One of the main exponents and innovators of France’s torture programme, Lieutenant General Marcel Bigeard, fully admitted to French use of systematic torture and executions by beheading during the Algerian War of Independence. 

In an interview with the French Le Monde newspaper in 2000, Bigeard described torture as a “necessary evil” but denied being actively involved in torture himself. Whether he was directly involved in the use of rape, burying old men alive, or pouring cement concrete onto victims feet before they were thrown into the sea – mockingly referred to as “Bigeard’s shrimps” – the French general was certainly responsible as were his colleagues and superiors in the French government. 

It is one of life’s ironies that the men responsible for these atrocities lived through the Nazi occupation of France and were fully aware of the genocidal policies of that fascistic state. 

Amongst these generals and officials were members of the French resistance against Nazi Germany yet had no problem at all inflicting similar policies on Arabs and Berbers, not to mention French crimes in Indo-China and elsewhere across the globe. 

Despite all this, and an acknowledgement from President Emmanuel Macron that torture was systematically used in Algeria, there has notoriously been no real apology.

And apologise the French should. 

With all the torture, sexual violence, land-grabbing, militant secular proselytising, and beheadings, we would not be wrong in describing France as a colonial era version of Daesh that actually succeeded in forging an empire, unlike the terrorists of today. 

While I am loath to use present day violence to address events that occurred in the past for fear of falling into the anachronism trap, what happened in Algeria is still in living memory and French interventionist attitudes in North Africa today are very much inspired by their colonial history that they have yet to atone and apologise for. 

The victims of French savagery deserve better.

France should butt out of Libya

With France’s well-documented history of very recent barbarity established, we should now turn to its false allegations that Turkey is behaving in a “criminal” manner in Libya.

What exactly the French want us to believe is so criminal about Turkey providing support to the only internationally recognised government in Libya is unknown.

Unlike France, Turkey was directly invited to extend aid to the Government of National Accord. Turkey’s role is in full compliance with international law, unlike the French role which can be legitimately described as criminal, with Paris having repeatedly breached a UN-backed arms embargo in order to arm warlord Khalifa Haftar.

France put all its eggs in one basket and believed Haftar would have swept all opposition aside with its arms and the financial and military backing of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and neighbouring Egypt. 

Macron had gambled that a swift Haftar victory would have led to French reconstruction contracts and access to Libya’s vast oil reserves for French oil giant Total. Blinded by opportunism, Macron charged headlong into the Libyan quagmire on the side of anti-democratic forces and threw his lot in with Arab dictators and autocrats.

In most circumstances, Paris would have been right to make such a gamble. However, they did not bank on a robust Turkish response that was necessitated by agreements Ankara had with the GNA that primarily revolved around its energy interests in the Mediterranean. 

Turkish military assistance completely upset the balance of power and sent Haftar packing from the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this year, ruining Macron’s plans.

It is for that reason, and that reason alone, that Macron is now feeling salty and lashing out in juvenile fashion at his fellow NATO ally. 

However, the petulance displayed by the French president is unwarranted, and considering France’s history of brutality in Africa and the fact that it has not been invited by the legitimate Libyan authorities, it should butt out of Libya and reflect upon its own criminality both past and present before accusing others.

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