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Marked non-response by French authorities to Muslim unrest rising from Clichy-sous-Bois


I admit to astonishment that the "deeply aggressive and ferocious" Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS), as well as the Gendarmerie Mobile (part of the Gendarmerie Nationale), have not been turned loose on French Muslim demonstrators. (One of the slogans and posters of the May 1968 demonstrations was "CRS = SS" along with a poster of a CRS officer with police baton and a CRS officer with police baton and SS logo.) Anyone who thinks that the US has a police state capacity has never seen the CRS and Gendarmerie in action, and they are only two of the robust French police assets:

France's two national police forces responsible for civil law enforcement agency are the National Police (Police Nationale) with primary jurisdiction in cities and large towns and the National Military Police (Gendarmerie Nationale) with primary jurisdiction in smaller cites, rural and border areas. The Gendarmerie Nationale is divided into the gendarmerie départementale (local policing functions throughout French territory) and the gendarmerie mobile (crowd and riot control, security of public buildings, policing requiring large personnel levels such as counterterrorism patrols). The Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) are riot control assets that form part of the reserves of the French National Police. The CRS and the gendarmes mobiles are said to have similar missions.

I submit that a 2004 private note in the aftermath of the Atocha bombings, sent to a colleague displeased with the French, is instructive, especially as the woman mentioned, a US national, fully expected to be raped and killed, never to reappear from the underground French detention cell in which she was held. No US consul was notified by French authorities before or after her detention:

Now [the French] are more valuable than ever. Now they are in play and they are working out a means to engage. You want the FEBA (Forward Edge of the Battle Line) out there and not here. As they engage, they pick up intel on a wide spectrum of interests to us that should allow us to hit the wider infrastructure, logistics, and C&C.

Despite all the prattle about liberty and democracy, the French security forces and national police are ruthless beneath the surface. Example: I have a friend, an American national with legal Parisian residence, that was disappeared for some ten days for interrogation as to why the address book of a dead Palestinian had her name and address in it. This event was some fifteen years ago. Yes, she was a red diaper baby of socialist parents so was seen as a likely fellow-traveler, but her story started off like the French interrogations in Algeria…

Remember that it was only the French and the Russians that ended kidnapping and killing of their nationals in Lebanon. Each informed the pertinent authorities that they would decide who was guilty (note that I said 'decide' and not 'adjudicate') and then kill the grandparents, children, and grandchildren before the perp went. For men who were willing to die themselves, this variation of the Columbian "Leave no seed" killing stopped matters cold…

The 1968 response by French authorities was so substantive and so many restrictions and bans were being affected that the May 68 demonstrators responded with, Il est interdit d'interdire, or It is forbidden to forbid. A French colleague once told me that as more actions were proscribed that the more obscure, interdit d'trufé, or forbidden to truffle, made its appearance.

[For those that wish to pursue the trove of posters rising from May 1968, go here as a link to Chants Revolutionnaires de Revoltes et de Luttes. Politics aside, the graphics are remarkable. I always liked SALAIRES LÉGERS, CHARS LOURDS (Small wages, large tanks).]

As one who was a contemporary to the May 1968 student riots and the resultant French military police response, I find the current absence of determined response by French authorities to pose many questions. The answer may, in part, lie in the outcome of the May 68 events: De Gaulle's efforts to use police forces to quell student strikes only led to street battles followed by a national general strike involving more than half the French workforce. De Gaulle had created a military operations headquarters to deal with the resistance, dissolved the National Assembly and called for new elections. Had leftist trade unions and the French Communist Party not deflated the issue, the government would have fallen.

History is not enough as the circumstances and constituencies are different. More to be learned.

The deaths that set Clichy ablaze
BBC News
Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 10:44 GMT

Timeline: French riots
A chronology of key events
BBC News
Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 13:19 GMT

Maps: Riots in France
BBC News

Violence exposes France's weaknesses
By John Simpson
BBC World Affairs
Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 14:34 GMT

Gordon Housworth

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