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Terrorism before 9/11

Tim Brown disagrees with Martin Storey's account of history: "This is yet another re-invention of the historical record to support a pre-decided political position. Whoever told Martin Storey that when France had terrorism problems in the 1970s the US did not help, is totally ignorant of the facts. I myself was involved, sometimes very directly and sometimes more peripherally, in cooperative efforts with both French and other national authorities against terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s. [In return in the late 1980s some French terrorists bombed my office and put me on an assassination list, so I'm not just talking hypothetically.]

As far as I know, the only instances when French-US bilateral cooperation was less than complete related to Castro and Communist Cuba, and in those cases it was France, not the US, that decided not to cooperate fully. The reason is not hard to find. As all WAISers know - and some admit - Cuba became the center of terrorism and revolution in Latin America in 1960. Beginning then it served as the primary training ground, safe haven and state-sponsor of revolutionaries and terrorists in the hemisphere. In addition to its numerous camps in Cuba proper, Cuban instructors trained thousands of other terrorists in camps in third countries such as Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and North Vietnam. As recently as last year IRA bomb makers traveled from Cuba to Colombia to train FARC guerrillas, where they were detained and are current on trial for having done so.

In terms of Franco-US cooperation against terrorism, my impression was that the bureaucracy was willing and able but the politicians applied the brakes. (French intelligence is quite good.) The problem was public opinion. Much of the French public was and remains deeply enamored of revolutionary Cuba. This made French cooperation against terror groups with Cuban connections rarely possible. The archetypical Frenchman whose political influence most assured that cooperation would remain minimal was Regis Debray, a man who loves Castro, made Che Guevara's reputation, loved Allende, and was the top advisor on Latin America to President Mitterrand. More recently he has been has been championing radical Islamic causes. According to an impeccable source who actually trained alongside him, while Debray has pretended all his life to be a socialist, in fact he is a Communist and was trained as an urban guerrilla and taught terror tactics in Havana by a personal aide to Fidel Castro.

So, in the 1970s and '80s it was France not the US that did not cooperate, exactly the opposite of what Martin Storey's source believes. This sort of distortion of history has sadly become the tone of the current debate. Bush is going to war for oil [that France needs more than we do]; Bush is a "cowboy" and therefore unpolished, not a French ENArque polished by the State; or,as Debray put it in the New York Times (2/3/03), the US is politically naive, unlike France, so France must save it from itself. How such a pretentious claim of intellectual, political and foreign policy superiority can be squared with France's own abysmal foreign and military policy record - constant defeats and not a single unaided victory since the 19th century - or earlier - is hard to fathom. But the intellectual process is simple. First, start with assumptions of your own superiority, add a large dash of latent anti-Americanism, some anger that English has overtaken French as the world's lingua franca, chagrin at ones own economic and military inferiority, unhappiness with having slipped from the first tier into the third tier of nations, then find or invent "facts" to prove your prejudice. And, viola, there you have it!"

RH: Tim is angry, which is natural in someone who was a target for assassination, a distinctly unWAIS form of criticism. But he exaggerates. What about the victory of the Marne? Finally, how often must I tell WAISers that Mitterrand has two rrs?

Ronald Hilton - 3/8/03