Just Above Sunset
September 12, 2004 - Even thugs need advice now and then...

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

What you missed on television in Paris Wednesday evening?


An odd documentary revealing something you would have never imagined.

Les escadrons de la mort - L'école française
Mercredi 8 septembre 2004 à 20h45
Rediffusion: vendredi 10 septembre 2004 à 16h45
Réalisé par Marie-Monique Robin
Production : Idéale Audience

What is this about?   Perhaps you turned in to watch the rebroadcast at quarter to five Friday afternoon?  Oh heck, no one watches Arte-TV late on Friday afternoon in that city.  That’s "L’Heure Verte" - the Green Hour.  (Think absinthe if you wonder about the name they use for what we call the Happy Hour.)  But it is an interesting show.

This is a documentary about the development of anti-subversive methods used by the military, employed for the first time in Algeria.  There’s no news film from the war of independence in Algeria; only the Italian-Algerian film “The Battle of Algiers.”  (That film has been discussed in these pages here and here.)

Well, it seems the leading generals are still alive, and they spoke for this documentary.  Paul Aussaresses said, "How do you get information without torture?"  He was there, and also characterized the Gillo Pontecorvo 1965 film as being accurate, “true to life.”

The French military developed the tactics thought necessary to deal with a civilian insurgency, including torture to gain information, and the elimination of those tortured.  According to the documentary, these methods were developed and refined by the French.  But France “lost” Algeria.

Still, this documentary shows, other governments were quite impressed with French methods.  In the early 1960s French “experts” who had served in Algeria were invited to Fort Bragg to instruct the US Army in counter-insurgency tactics.  “Operation Phoenix” in Vietnam was a result.

Yep, we learned to be tough from the French.  Ha!

We are shown that other French “experts” were invited to Argentina to teach the military there, and to Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.  Chileans were trained at bases in Brazil.  French “experts” were also loaned to the US Southern Command in Panama, where officers from South American armies came for training.

Operation Condor was a coordinated anti-subversive effort run by South American dictatorships.  For example, it “disappeared” Chileans who were refugees from the Pinochet regime living in Argentina.

One Argentine ex-officer explained that their cells only held 100 persons.  When there was an excess, the extras were given cement shoes, flown out over the Atlantic and dumped.

A Chilean journalist asserted that France’s DST assisted on keeping watch on Chilean refugees in France, and alerted Pinochet’s secret police when the refugees were returning to Chile.

There are international warrants outstanding against some of those who appeared in the documentary.  It was also asserted that Pinochet is not senile - which his defense says he is.

The whole thrust of the documentary was to explain the role of the “French School” of counter-insurgency tactics, first developed in Algeria in the late “50s.

Now you know where the US Army in Iraq got its inspiration.

It is unlikely this documentary will make it over this way, with subtitles and all that, as it doesn’t fit our current narrative about the French being cowards and wimps.  Want to learn to be a tough thug and have the bad guys fear you?  The French can help, it seems.  And theyhave helped.

I shall ask my friends in Paris if any of them caught the show, but I suspect "L’Heure Verte" may have had more allure.


Oh, and an odd photo published long ago by Ric Erickson in MetropoleParis - a place where you might spend "L’Heure Verte" – and named appropriately…

Actual Size


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....