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Jacobins ain’t soft on Terror

Far be it from me to find anything hopeful about the PSOE election victory in Spain last weekend. After two election terms of relative fiscal sanity and an end to the grotesque corruption of the Felipe Gonzalez era, a return to PSOE government is bad news for Spain. It is also extremely bad news for the rest of the European Union, as this represents a shift away from pragmatism towards an (even more) collectivist EU agenda.

It is not however, necessarily good news for terrorism. Among the multitude of scandals faced down by the previous Spanish Socialist government the ‘GAL affair’ looms large.

GAL was the name assumed by a anti-ETA terror group in the 1980s that entered France and murdered ETA members and supporters. I no longer have the details but there was a spate of terrorist attacks on Basques living in the Bordeaux area, as well as closer to the Spanish border.

Following the arrest of several GAL members it transpired that they were all either members of law-enforcement agencies and the armed forces, or recently had been. It later emerged that the money to finance GAL came from the Ministry of the Interior and was signed off ultimately by the Minister. Whilst the Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez himself was never proven by documentary evidence to have sanctioned the GAL death squad, let me just say that if he ever wins a libel action on the issue, I will be amazed.

Two things are worth noting, firstly that both the French and Spanish governments were under Socialist control at the time, second that Spanish public opinion was firmly on the side of the death squads: the only non-Basque critics of the policy tended to shut up because it was their own party that was doing the dirty deeds.

In France the President from 1981 to 1995 was François Mitterrand, the former far-right youth organisation member turned founder of the modern French Socialist Party. It is worth noting his record as an Interior Minister in the 1950s.

In 2001, one of the big political scandals was the publication of Services Spéciaux: Algérie 1955-1957, by the retired General Paul Aussaresses. The French Left went beserk and managed to get the retired former leader of the Action Service to have his Légion d’honneur withdrawn. They also tried to get his pension removed. The ostensible reason was that General Aussaresses had exposed and admitted the use of torture against Algerian terrorists during the Battle of Algiers.

In my copy of this extremely interesting book I find on page 12:

De son côté, François Mitterrand, le ministre de l’Intérieur chargé des départements français de l’Algérie, considérant que la police était impuissante à maintenir l’ordre républicain, envoya son directeur de cabinet au ministère de la Défense nationale pour y requérir la troupe et déclara sans ambiguité ce même 12 novembre, devant les députés: “Je n’admets pas de négotiations avec les enemis de la Patrie. La seule négotiation, c’est la guerre!”

My translation: For his part, François Mitterrand, the Minister of the Interior responsible for the French administrative districts of Algeria, believing that the police was powerless to maintain the Republic’s peace, sent his chief advisor to the Ministry of National Defense to resquest the use of troops [including the 11th Shock Paras, better known as the Action Service]. He also declared without ambiguity on the 12th November, before the Chamber of Deputies [French House of Representatives]: “I will not tolerate negotiations with the enemies of the Fatherland. The only negotiation, is war!”

It took the removal of the French Socialists and the introduction of the General de Gaulle to bring about appeasement of the Algerian terrorists. There is a strand of Western Socialist thought that takes the secular State seriously. I seriously doubt if there will be any safe-haven for Islamist terrorists in Spain for the forseeable future. Jacobins ain’t soft on Terror.

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14 comments to Jacobins ain’t soft on Terror

  • There is a segment of the hard Left that would be absolutely brutal towards the terrorists. For that matter, the Soviet Union dealt with terrorism with a ruthlessness that is still chilling.

    That Left is not the modern European Left. Absent a few real hard-core Marxist holdouts anyway, and even they prefer bin Laden to the United States. The Spanish Socialists are basically the same as the French or the Germans, save that the PSOE has retained an even more reactionary Socialist economic platform. Their general world-view is relativist and post-modernist, and quite phobic towards violence. In their statements they have made it clear that they take the conventional European view that the injustice of the capitalist system is to blame for radical Islam, and that “force is not an answer” (to paraphrase that ideal Eurocrat Prodi) to terrorism. The Socialists have not just been soft on Al Qaeda, but before the war endorsed their Catalan regional allies in talks with ETA, after all.

  • Sandy P.

    Via LGF:

    GWB want to castrate terrorists.

    Moratinos wants to fellate them.

    That is the essence of “nuance”.

    LGF’s got pics of Moratinos and Arafish and Moratinos meeting w/the vermin who entered the Church of the Nativity.

  • Antoine Clarke

    The Marxists are not the French and Spanish Socialists. In fact they are implacable enemies. It is often ignored outside France that Mitterrand was utterly loathed in Moscow, and with good reason.

    Most of the present Democratic Party of the US is to the left of where Mitterrand and Gonzalez were by 1985.

    Felipe Gonzalez campaigned for Spain to remain in NATO.

    The Spanish and French Communists did not approve of the anti-terrorist measures: ETA and the FLN were more Moscow’s men than the French and Spanish Socialists were.

    A curious fact. In both Spain and France there is widespread belief that without tacit US support (at least in preventing the European governments from militarily smashing the seperatists), neither Algeria would have broken away nor ETA survived until the present day. I personally discount this myth, yet it exists and affects the degree to which French and Spanish politicians trust US administrations.

    My point is that there is no necessary connection between a Socialist Party label and going soft on terrorism.

    Mr Tony Blair is not a member of the Conservative Party either.

  • It is a point well taken that the European socialists are not Marxists as such. And indeed Mitterand played a very important role in insuring the Cold War ended as it did, particularly in taking a stand against the unilateral disarmament movement.

    Still, the socialists of France and Spain have permutated in the ’90s to base themselves on opposition to globalization and America, instead of “just” strong welfare states. Zapaterro is no Gonzalez, and insterad of becoming more responsible and taking a harder line against terrorism now that he hasd won election, he seems determined to stick to his pre-election line, which would do Prodi or de Villepan quite proud. Of course, the policies of Chirac certainly also indicate that such attitudes are by no means limited to the Left, as Blair indicates that they might also be repudiated by the Left.

  • Antoine Clarke


    Agreed. However, Felipe Gonzalez was regarded as anti-NATO when he was first elected.

    Whilst Spanish PSOE voters may take the view that siding with the US over Iraq (as opposed to letting the US take all the risks and do all the hard work) was dangerous posturing, I do not expect that those culpable will get off more lightly.

    Incidentally, this argument for letting the US do what it wants and sitting on the touchlines is a rational one for minor powers and has nothing to do with ideology.

  • Jacob

    “Incidentally, this argument for letting the US do what it wants and sitting on the touchlines is a rational one for minor powers….”

    I think such a position is immoral, it stinks. If you’re impotent militarily you should at least give some verbal support in the WOT.
    And France isn’t “sitting on the touchlines”, it is very actively playing with the other team.

    As to Zapatero: let him apply the GAL method on AQ and then we’ll talk. Fat chance !

  • Antoine Clarke

    The purpose of government is not altruistic morality, it is the protection of its own citizens.

    It would have been foolish for Luxembourg to demand ‘regime change’ in Nazi Germany in 1937. It would be foolish for Mexico to declare war on the US now. It is foolish for minor powers to publicly support the “war on terror”, especially as they have no control over that war’s objectives or prosecution.

  • Jacob

    Maybe it was foolish of France, too, to declare war on the Nazis, especially judging by the outcome.

    So now the Frech think it is in their best interest to join forces with the Islamo-nuts, agains the US.
    Some pragamtism this ! A very vehement and ethusiastic “pragmantism” !

  • Shawn

    “It is foolish for minor powers to publicly support the “war on terror”, especially as they have no control over that war’s objectives or prosecution.”

    This argument is nonsense.

    For a start, it is simply wrong to say that because a government has a responsibility to protect its citizens that therefore the logical course of action is not to support the WoT. This is like saying that the best way to promote chastity outside of marriage is to sleep with as many people as possible.

    Isolating the U.S. is exactly what the terrorists want. The U.S. is not so powerful and rich that it can carry out a global war of this nature for an extended period of time on its own. Trying to do so would drain the U.S. and weaken it. Bin Laden and co would love this outcome. Already U.S. forces are stretched to almost breaking point. If all the so-called “minor powers” pulled out of the WoT then it is doubtful that the U.S. could continue at all for much longer. The result of this would be a weakened West, with countries like Spain even more exposed and threatened than before.

    Antione’s claim that governments have no other responsibility except protection of their citizens, and should not engage in altruistic morality is false.

    A libertarian government is one that is based on moral principles. Not stealing from nor initiating force against its citizens are moral principles. The defense of citizens (as opposed to Antione’s conveniantly more narrow “protection”) is itself based on moral principle. Morality and good government cannot be seperated. A government must defends its citizens yes, but defense is more than just protection. If a nation is being invaded or attacked, defending it would require that those citizens in the armed forces put their lives on the line, forgo protection, and sacrifice themselves for their fellow countrymen. Mere protection of all citizens from harm would make this impossible.

    Moreover, Antione’s use of the word “altruistic” in this context is wrong. Support for the WoT is in the long term self interest of all freedom loving countries. Spain’s contribution was not altruistic, it was based on a rational understanding of the threat that the West faces.

    Antione totally misses the point that a fully united West, with all of Europe, North America and Australasia standing together against Islamic terror would be an unbeatable power. Such a united West, with all differences put aside for the duration, and committed to ruthlessly destroying terrorist networks, would end the threat that terror poses far faster and more totally than any one country, even the U.S., could do on its own. Smaller countries like Spain would not in fact be small powers, they would be as powerful as the whole West.

    Finally, as a general rule I try to keeps my arguments here civil and respectful. This thread however is an exception.

    That Antioine thinks my country should be abandoned to itself alone to defend the entire free world against terror, that he thinks other countries should sit back and let American soldiers do all the fighting, suffering and dying, that only American spouses and children should suffer the pain of their husbands, wives and fathers never coming home again, is evidence of a very sick and twisted mind. Antione can dress his argument up in all the psuedo-moral rational self interest he likes. It does not hide the fact that his argument is pure evil at worst, at best infantile drivel, and is in many respects far worse than anything that comes from the twisted mind of bin Laden and his ilk. A country based on this sick ideology would have no moral basis and would not be worth defending or protecting.

    Personally, I think those countries that pull out of the WoT, but are nevertheless benifiting from it, should be held accountable, and at the very least when it is over, they should be sent a bill by the U.S. government for costs incured by the U.S. in keeping their sorry, lazy and cowardly asses free.

  • A_t

    Shawn, you’re really sold on the official WoT line aren’t you? All that “freedom loving countries”… Show me a Western country (or indeed any country, if you asked the people themselves) which doesn’t love freedom… and that clincher, saying cooperation of Western powers “would end the threat that terror poses far faster and more totally than any one country”

    terror… this abstract concept/tactic of choice… you’re going to defeat it? Presumably next you’ll win the war on drugs too… do you have some great new means to defeat all intoxicating substances in a mighty conflagration of conventional warfare? Which “drug supporting regime” would you target in order to start this eradication?

    None of your European allies are reluctant to kill Al Quaida members; i’d challenge you to find a government which wouldn’t approve covert assassination attempts against confirmed members of Al-Q leadership, but many fear that open warfare against countries with unproved connections with terrorism may not be the best course. Whether they’re right is still uncertain, but they’ve not been proved wrong yet either.

    As Antoine points out, none of us “junior partners” in this coalition of the willing really have any say over the conduct, outcome or objectives of the much-vaunted war on terror (or whatever it really is… i’m sorry, I think the concept is as ridiculous as the war on drugs, & hides a whole bunch of American foreign policy objectives, some of which may be in the interest of it’s European allies, some of which may not be), and in this situation, where we are asked to lend unquestioning support to policies we have no say over, is it surprising we’re somewhat reluctant partners? Americans regularly complain about the UN’s various agendas and it’s influence over their country. At least in that forum they have an important & influential voice. How do you think Americans would react to being told they just had to follow another country’s agenda regardless, & being called traitors to mankind or freedom if they didn’t? D’you think they would just bow down to foreign ‘wisdom’? That’s what you’re asking of us.

  • Jacob


    “As Antoine points out, none of us “junior partners” in this coalition of the willing really have any say over the conduct, outcome or objectives of the …WoT”

    That’s false.

    France, the EU, Germany, Russia, Chile, the Ivory Coast, the whole damn UN were consulted for 6 moths and implored to join. The consistent, and categoric answer of all the above was: “No, NO, NO!!, God forbid, it’s illegal! just do nothing !”. End of consultation.

    If you claim that those “junior” European countries (France and Germany) refused to join because they weren’t consulted – you’re wrong. They refused to join for other reasons.
    The reason was what Antoine Clark said: they felt that the power balance between themseves and the Islamists was as Luxembourg to Nazi Germany. They feel powerless, and therefore, afraid.

    After the terrible war to topple Saddam was over, they could join, with the UN, in trying to help rebuild and create some decent regime in Iraq. That surely isn’t illegal, isn’t wrong, it is highly humanitarian. Their answer again: “No, No ,No, we don’t care, let the Islamist totalitarians regain control, and keep murdering their people. That’s none of our business.”

    You can understand this consistent position. But you cannot symphatize with it.

  • A_t

    Jacob, being able to delay the US because it would have preferred to go it with more allies is not changing the agenda, just altering the timing of the action. Judging by the number of pronouncements Tony Blair (the US’s closest ally & all) made about what would happen after the war (UN in charge of reconstruction etc. etc.), one must conclude that either he meant nothing of what he was promising (quite possible, i grant you), or else that in reality, although he’s useful to the US government, & gets tossed some tasty scraps in the form of reconstruction contracts/global influence, he has very little say over what actually gets done at the end of the day. I see no reason to believe Chirac or any other Euro-leader would have had any more influence.

    Also, what’s this “let the Islamist totalitarians regain control” (my italics)… hmm… I think you’re confusing two quite different beasts; Saddam was not Bin Laden… repeat 200x. And that goes for anyone else who thinks the same. I know both of them are undesirable, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same; not every Arab fascist is alike. Islamist totalitarians have never to my knowledge been in power in Iraq. Hopefully never will be.

    And the offers of “cooperation” in Iraqi reconstruction from the US so far have been along the lines of “well, we’ll be in charge; we’ll tell you what to do, but you can do some of the dirty work if you like, & maybe we’ll hand you some of the scraps”. Perhaps you can forgive a few proud nations for not leaping at the chance, even if they might benefit a little. What the US has proposed isn’t an alliance, it’s basically asking nations to pledge fealty, & even *if* that is the inevitable reality of our era, many people aren’t very comfortable with it yet. Discarding even the pretence of consultation doesn’t give you the most cooperative “allies”.

  • Jacob

    Ok, A_t,

    So “Saddam isn’t Bin Laden. (x200)”. Bin Laden murdered how many ? in his whole career ? 5000 ?
    Saddam murdered 5000 in one day (when he gassed the Kurds), for a grand total of about 1,000,000 dead in all the wars he started. But… ok, so Saddam isn’t Bin Laden, no Sir! OK. So what ?
    Now, if Iraq is abandoned hastily, there is no knowing who will gain control, whether another secular murderer a la Saddam or some Islamo-nut like in Iran (more probable).
    It is this that the French don’t give a damn about.

    A “proud” nation, like France, needs to have some basis for it’s pride, like some military capability, moral stature, good humanitarian work or some other achievement. The last thing to give them pride, Napoleon, is old news.

    If they came in and really helped with constructive ideas instead of just oposing everything and obstructing, then they would be consulted and given all due respect.

  • A_t

    Jacob… the point is not to assess how deadly they are, but how *dangerous*, towards us, they are. Bin Laden is most definitely dangerous to pretty much everyone who lives in the West; I don’t doubt he’d love to kill most or all of us if he could, & is (if still alive) working towards that goal in various ways. Saddam on the other hand, murderous tyrant though he was, certainly wasn’t interested in taking the fight to us; the last time he’d attacked anything, it was a piddly little country, & there was no evidence linking him to any terrorist activities against the West.

    If you want to get into murderous regimes, the Chinese government have doubtless killed more than either Saddam or Bin Laden. Does that mean we should have taken them out first? Seems to me you need to look beyond “bad man, kill people”, & think about the hard realities of what’s within a country’s abilities, & self-interest. Many Europeans saw little self-interest in defeating Saddam; he posed no apparant danger to them. His murdering was confined principally to his own subjects. I know you’ll say this was a cowardly way to approach things, but then is the US cowardly in relation to China? to Burma? to x amount of other murderous regimes, by not deposing them?

    Politics of the real world; you ain’t doing something unless you’ve something to gain from it, & I doubt the pie-in-the-starry-sky “an end to terror” objective figured in the realistic assessments by those who really matter when they decided to invade Iraq.