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Egypt's generals following Algerian playbook?

Comments from Egyptian officers are eerily similar to those heard from the mouths of the Algerian "eradicators."
Last modified: 20 Aug 2013 19:58

Tunis, Tunisia — In case it was not already clear, in an interview with the French daily newspaper Le Monde, the Egyptian General Amr said with remarkable frankness that he is prepared to oversee a campaign that would essentially be aimed at “purging” Egypt of political Islam.

“There are 90 million Egyptians and there are only three million [members of] the Muslim Brotherhood. We need six months to liquidate or imprison them all," said in the interview, published on Monday.

The general’s affirmation is eerily similar to comments heard from the mouths of the Algerian “eradicators” – those within the regime who, advocated that any means necessary should be used to wipe out political Islam. This toolkit included any means necessary, with torture, killings and a complete disregard for basic human rights.

In fact, even the statistic cited by the Egyptian general echoes Algeria.

Smaïl Lamari, the notorious head of the Algerian intelligence service known as the Department of Counter-Espionage and Internal Security, reportedly made a similar comment twenty-one years earlier.

Mohamed Samraoui, Lamari’s former deputy who defected from the Algerian regime in the mid-1990s and wrote an account of the secret services’ role in the descent into violence titled "Chronicles of the years of blood", attributed the following quote to his then-boss:

"I am ready and resolved to eliminate three million Algerians if it's necessary to maintain the order which the Islamists are threatening."

According to Samraoui, Lamari made these comments at a meeting at Chateauneuf in May 1992, before Algeria had descended into the cycle of violence that would last for ten years and claim an estimated 200,000 lives.

The Algerian generals were themselves borrowing directly from the playbook from the strategy used by the French half a century earlier, during the Algerian War, Samraoui wrote.

Some were experts, having worked directly with the French military until switching sides on the eve of independence.

The theory behind this strategy is based on “Modern Warfare”, written by the French counter-insurgency theorist Roger Trinquier.

As French journalist Marie-Monique Robin demonstrated in her 2003 documentary “The Death Squads: the French School” this same toolkit had already previously been “copied and pasted” in many of the worst dirty wars of the 20th century.

In Argentina, the French secret services provided training to the regime, as she showed in her documentary, which won the French senate’s award for the best political documentary of the year.

Given how many times the world has seen this playbook used before, in some of the worst atrocities of the later half of the 20th century, the fact that General Amr is clearly completely unfazed by the definite human cost of his endeavour or of any potential repercussions from the international community is telling.

“Afterwards, the tourists will come back, and so will foreign investors. And Egypt will be in peace for centuries to come,” he told Le Monde.

His comments, again, suggest he has paid close attention to the Algerian example. And while Lamari said it behind closed draws, Amr has told the world of his intentions.