Paul Aussaresses Took Pride in Use of Torture
French Officer Who Refined the Use of Torture During
the Battle of Algiers Trained Chile’s Secret Police as Well
A New York Times obituary on Sunday noted that General Paul Aussaresses “stunned France in 2000 when he asserted that he cold-bloodedly tortured and summarily executed dozens of prisoners during his country’s brutal colonial war in Algeria decades earlier died Tuesday in La Vancelle, France. He was 95.” *
What it didn’t say was that he also, in that long and evidently happy life, trained other countries’ armies in the lessons of the Battle of Algiers, including United States Army Special Forces, who applied what they’d learned in the Vietnam era Phoenix Program. That Program was designed “to identify and ‘neutralize’ (via infiltration, capture, terrorism, torture, and assassination) the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (Viet Cong.)”
It also fails to mention that he helped train the forces of Latin American dictators during the 1970s, including those of Chile. His Wikipedia entry says that “Aussaresses moved to Brazil in 1973 during the military dictatorship, where he maintained very close links with the military…”
“According to General Manuel Contreras, former head of the Chilean DINA, [secret police.] Chilean officers trained in Brazil under Aussaresses’ orders, and advised the South American juntas on counter-insurrection warfare and the use of torture that was widely used against leftist opponents to the military regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.” [Wikipedia]
In his book, Special Services: Algeria 1955-57 (English version: Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Algeria, 1955-57), “the general wrote of beating prisoners; of attaching electrodes to their ears or testicles and gradually increasing the intensity of the electrical charge; of pouring water over their faces until they either spoke or drowned. Whether a captive talked or not, he said, he usually had him executed anyway, often doing the job himself. [New York Times]
In addition to “routine” torture in Algeria, he ordered his subordinates to fake the suicides of captured leaders, and once had one of his officers throw an Algerian lawyer from a sixth floor window.
Though the French government denied knowing of his abuses, Aussaresses claimed that the tortures and killings were a matter of policy and were well known to his superiors, both in the military and in the civilian government.
Photos of Aussaresses frequently show him with a rather dashing looking eyepatch, but his injury was not incurred in combat, of which he evidently saw little in person. It was the result of a cataract operation gone wrong.
* Other sources compared France’s “stunned” response to Captain Renault’s in the Humphrey Bogart movie, Casablanca:
…………CAPTAIN RENAULT: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
…………CROUPIER (hands Renault a pile of cash): Your winnings, sir.
…………The Past, Still Present in Today’s Chile