Be sure to have a look at these articles, current as the last half-month or so.
Roger Kaplan’s review of John W. Kinser’s Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader in the Weekly Standard. I look forward to reading and reviewing Kinser’s book.
Wendy Smith’s “From Oppressed to Oppressors” in the most recent issue of The American Scholar. Smith looks at Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers in relation to Algerian women and ethnic identity, post-independence. At times it carries on awkwardly, and it is somewhat clear that the writer, though generally well informed, is trying to piece together a series of only vaguely related elements into some wider, more coherent observation that simply does not materialize. What does would have done so without the seemingly obligatory reference to the fact that the Pentagon screened BoA 2003 and the somewhat laboring introspection which seems to substitute for in depth research into the condition of Algerian women — especially those who were active participants in the War of Independence — after the battle was over, aside from a few Djebar novels and news clippings. But, overall the point is relevant and mostly well put.
Notice that the Russians are having trouble getting the gas cartel scheme off the ground.
Nosreddine Qasaem has a summary of the Chadli-Nezzar feud in al-Ahram. The conclusion is essentially that Chadli was attacked, unprovoked, by Nezzar after making comments in good faith at El-Tarif and that charges that Ben Bella axed Col. Mohamed Chaabani out of malice or from his dictatorial impulses are unfounded. Take this perspective with a grain of salt. I share his view that Nezzar’s response shows an insecurity that may not be the result of a fierce desire to defend his honor alone.
Anissa Boumediene, the widower of the late military dictator spoke at a conference titled “Boumediene et l’autodétermination des peuples,” hosted by El Moudjahid. Her revelations: (1) That Ben Bella attempted to unilaterally cede parts of Algeria’s territory to Tunisia, without consulting Boumediene (then the Defense Minister and effective Vice President) or Boufeflika (his then Foreign Minister) and that this prompted the duo to overthrow him (which is somewhat different from the other immediate causes given for the July coup, such as Ben Bella’s having micromanaged the organization of the Afro-Asia summit to the irritation of Bouteflika, then Foreign Minister, who complained to his big brother Boumediene who attempted to pressure Ben Bella to allow Boutef to do his job, which led to Ben Bella threatening to sack the both of them, with rumors of Ben Bella preparing to appoint Ait Ahmed as FM circulating — or that Ben Bella and Boumediene had a heated conversation, unrelated to the Afro-Asia Summit, relating to his leadership style, and other tales; in any event the deep cause remains the same); (2) She reaffirms her previous statements regarding Chadli’s ascencion. “I am surprised that statements like that made by former President Chadli Bendjedid. The latter had said that the late President Boumedienne had thought him to be president. This is completely false.” She says that the only two government men who saw Boumediene in Moscow as he lay dying were Bouteflika and Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi and that he made no mention of Chadli becoming president whatsoever. This follows her previous comments on Chadli. She also said that she could not confirm whether or not her husband had been assassinated (she has previously said that Boumediene was taken off of life support without her consent or knowledge by members of the military); and (3) That Boumediene did not approve of the execution of Chaabani. (See this terribly translated excerpt interview with one of the members of the committee that dealt with Chaabani in El Khabar; the Arabic version isn’t loading, so check the PDF version on the main page to see it here‘s the Arabic version). The “I did it and I have no remorse” bit is interesting to say the least. Chaabani is one of the only rebel leaders from that period to have been executed. If there was a reversal in establishment views of that decision (beyond the “rehabilitation” of his “legacy” by the state in a somewhat bizarre way), it would signal something quite new in Algerian politics — the Admission of Wrongdoing.) So what we get is a continuation of the Chadli grumblings. It seems nobody wants to take responsibility for having allowed Chadli to come to power — not even Chadli.¹
Soon posts on Algeria/Bouteflika, books, and Mauritania.
1. The Appendix of the Ottaways’ book on post independence Algeria, there are biographical sketches of the various wilaya commanders. Chadli’s describes him as unambitious, a loyal member of the army, generally unimportant, etc. The consensus of people familiar with him before he became president seem to conform to that assessment: He was content with running Oran and reaping the benefits that come with commanding military force in an Algerian port city. The idea that he plotted his way to the top or that any of the décideurs picked him because of his whit or his charisma can be rejected almost out of hand. He was picked because he was seen as weak, if not daft, and capable of being run by others. That was a reputation he was probably aware of and worked hard to dispel, and perhaps did for a short time in deed and in form. But as the post-crisis period shows, that was not the case for long.