Demographic, Environmental,
Security Issues Project

Letter to the Atlantic Monthly Re: Algerian Massacres

by Ronald Bleier (rbleier@igc.org)

Note: The following letter was mailed to the Editor of the Atlantic Monthly on August 31, 1998. Apparently the editors have chosen not to publish it.

To the Editor:

Roger Kaplan's claim that the Algerian government bears little or no responsibility for the many thousands of killings usually attributed to Islamic extremist groups since the cancellation of the 1992 elections ("The Libel of Moral Equivalence," August 1998), seems another case of Muslim bashing rather than a serious attempt at political analysis.

Kaplan's article would have been more persuasive had it included a consideration of increasing popular opposition to 30 years of kleptocracy, mismanagement, corruption, and oppression by the Algerian ruling elite. The reason that the Islamic opposition party was poised to win in the 1992 elections involved as much a rejection of the ruling party as it was an embrace of strict Islamic rule.

Nor does Kaplan mention the imprisonment, torture and killings of many of the more moderate opposition leaders who might have participated in power sharing arrangements. The resulting vacuum left the field to many of the more inexperienced and extremist Islamic leaders, some of whom were coopted by agents of the government Security services.

Perhaps most strangely, even while he charges libel, Roger Kaplan ignores circumstantial and other important evidence that the Algerian government has played a criminal role in directing the activities of extremist Islamic groups for the purpose of terrorizing the country, and as a way of retaliating against their enemies. Roger Kaplan only indirectly mentions press accounts of many massacres that have occurred within earshot of Government military bases whose troops who were apparently ordered not to interfere. Doesn't the lack of Government intervention in these cases demand an explanation?

Roger Kaplan also ignores serious and detailed allegations of Government participation in these horrendous massacres (and other crimes often attributed to Muslim extremists). One such report appeared in the Manchester Guardian Weekly ("Algeria regime `was behind' Paris bombs,'" by John Sweeney and Leonard Doyle; November 16, 1997; the article is available on my website (http://www.igc.apc.org/desip). The article names Government officials allegedly directing the massacres.

Testimony is presented in the Guardian report from an Algerian former career secret agent of Algeria's securite militaire who defected to Britain in 1995, code-named "Yussuf-Joseph." Joseph claims to have spent 14 years working for the Algerian police state and testifies that the massacres are for the most part the work of secret police and army death squads.

According to Joseph, the Algerian police state is run by two men much more powerful than [outgoing] President Liamine Zeroual. They are Mohammed Mediane, codename "Twefik," the head of the Algerian secret service, the DRS; and General Smain Lamari, head of the sub-department of the secret service, the counter intelligence agency, the DCE. Joseph asserts that the Armed Islamic Group or GIA, is "a pure product of Smain's secret service....The GIA has been completely turned by the government." All the intelligence services in Europe are aware of the Algerian government's responsibility for the massacres, claims Joseph. "They are keeping quiet because they want to protect their oil."

Additional evidence that the Algerian government may be responsible for the massacres of villagers was broadcast in New York City on a segment of ITN TV News (London) on 12/5/97. The report cited allegations that the Government had infiltrated Islamic extremist groups and was thus responsible for the massacres. ITN cited a defecting soldier in the Algerian army who believed that there was a connection between a mysterious nighttime operation of elite Algerian Army commando units and subsequent reports of a massacre in the area the next morning.

The End