||My Battle of Algiers: A Memoir
Format: Hardcover, 304pp
Pub. Date: January 2006
Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
BBP Sales Rank: 13,978
List Price: $24.95
[FrontPage shopadd Component]
In My Battle of Algiers, an eminent historian and biographer recounts his own
experiences in the savage Algerian War, an event all too reminiscent of
America's present difficulties in Iraq.
Ted Morgan recalls a war that we would do well not to forget. A Yale graduate
who had grown up in both France and America -- he was then known as Sanche de
Gramont and was then a French citizen -- he was drafted into the French Army
and served in Algeria 1956 and '57. In this memoir, Morgan relives the
harrowing conflict in which every Arab was considered a terrorist -- and
increasingly, many were.
As a newly minted second lieutenant, he spends months in the back country --
the bled -- where everyone, including himself, becomes involved in unimaginable
barbarities. "You cannot fight a guerrilla war with humanitarian principles," a
superior officer tells Morgan early on. He beats up and kills a prisoner who
won't talk and may have been responsible for the death of a friend. He kills
another man in a firefight. He sees men die in encounters too small to be
recorded, ones that his fellow soldiers quickly forget. For Morgan, the
memories will never go away.
Later, in Algiers, Morgan's journalistic experience -- he had spent all of four
months as a reporter on the Worcester, MA, Telegram -- gets him a job writing
for an official newspaper. He lives through the day-to-day struggle to put down
an Arab urban insurgency, the first in modern history, with its unrelenting
menu of bombings, assassinations, torture, show trials, executions, and the
deliberate humiliation of prisoners. He misses death when a beach casino
explodes just as he is going in for lunch. He becomesdisillusioned with the war
and what it is doing to his country. He is himself arrested, but not for the
real offense he committed, helping a deserter to escape.
Though the events Ted Morgan describes so vividly happened nearly half a
century ago in Algiers, they might as well have taken place in Baghdad today.