Discovering, archiving, and disseminating knowledge regarding abuse of the People by governments and corporations in the Medieval Digital Era//
גילוי, ארכיבאות, והפצת מידע על התעללות בציבור על ידי ממשלות ותאגידים בימי הביניים הדיגיטליים
The French leader glossed over his nation’s shortcomings. But sometimes cold examination of the truth is needed
Charles de Gaulle would have been baffled and outraged by the Saville inquiry. Not by its findings, but that any country would go to such lengths to explore a painful and complicated chapter from the past.
This week a handful of surviving members of the French Resistance will come to London to commemorate the 70th anniversary of de Gaulle’s famous radio address from London, in which he told the French people: “The flame of French Resistance must not and will not be extinguished.”
The great French leader changed history in more ways than one: after the war, he assiduously nurtured the fable of national self-liberation, ignoring the realities of French collaboration: the myth of French Resistance should not and would not be extinguished.
De Gaulle and Lord Saville of Newdigate represent diametrically opposed attitudes to history: one sought to soften and simplify the past, the other has worked to expose the truth, however ugly.
The Saville inquiry into the fatal shooting of 13 protesters by British troops in Londonderry on “Bloody Sunday” in January 1972, has been stupefyingly expensive (£191 million) and painfully protracted (12 years). It is scandalous that a single senior counsel was paid £4.5 million, almost half the original estimated budget. The final report weighs in at a staggering 45lb and 5,000 pages, making it the most unpickupable publication of the year.
But there can be no doubting the nobility of the inquiry’s purpose, the thoroughness of Lord Saville’s methods and his determination to dig as deeply as possible. Some 2,500 people were interviewed, amassing 30 million words of evidence. Lord Widgery’s 1972 tribunal was accused of applying a thin layer of whitewash — no one could say that of Lord Saville.
De Gaulle, by contrast, allowed his country’s traumatic wartime history to be distorted by the demands of politics, leaving France with what one writer has called a “poisoned memory”.
The Resistance included individuals of supreme heroism and patriotism. That they were few in number only underlines their extraordinary bravery. “I love France,” declared the captured fighter Boris Vildé, shortly before he was shot by the Germans. “For the true France to be reborn one day, sacrifices will need to be made.”
But Vildé spoke for a minority. Most French people acquiesced under Nazi occupation and some enthusiastically collaborated. The Resistance was hopelessly fragmented, made up of myriad groups with competing aims. The partisans, undisciplined, disunited and capable of hideous brutality, were seen as dangerous bandits by many ordinary Frenchmen and women, who feared (rightly) that they would provoke German reprisals.
When Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, was asked to assess the impact of the French Resistance, he responded: “What French Resistance?” He had a point. The Resistance was a moral and national necessity, but a military irrelevance. The sabotage and assassinations carried out by the underground had little impact on the course of the war.
De Gaulle persuaded Eisenhower to say that the Resistance had been worth an “extra six divisions”. Both knew it wasn’t true.
None of this should detract from the significance of de Gaulle’s rallying call on June 18, 1940. The BBC did not consider the speech important enough to record, but it would be seen by many as the moment when France began to recover her honour.
Four years later, de Gaulle hailed the liberation of Paris as a French-only victory, conveniently forgetting the roles of Britain and America. “Paris outraged, Paris broken, Paris martyred, but Paris liberated! Liberated by herself, liberated by her people, with the help of the whole of France, that is to say of fighting France, the true France, eternal France.”
De Gaulle needed the French people to believe that French Resistance had won the day. The plaques he erected around Paris commemorating individual acts of heroism were not statements of historical fact, but unifying exhortations.
A new breed of French historians has begun to tackle the myths and denials of the period, but for the earlier generation, the wilful suppression of memory became a habit. For decades, a history that was messy and uncomfortable was rendered one-dimensional and uplifting — Resistance was all but universal, the collaborators merely criminal aberrations. The role of Vichy in the Final Solution was similarly obscured. “The French nation was never involved in that matter;” declared François Mitterrand, who himself worked for the Vichy Government, although he later claimed to have spied for the Free French.
In The Sorrow and the Pity, the 1969 documentary by Marcel Ophüls exposing the reality of wartime collaboration, Anthony Eden astutely observed that a country that has not suffered the horror of occupation should not pass judgment on one that has. I have often wondered whether Britain, under Nazi occupation, would have behaved any differently from the French. Probably not, but the long, detailed, painful investigation into Bloody Sunday suggests that we have at last learnt the benefits of confronting the darkest moments in our history, and the danger of hoping that, if ignored for long enough, they will simply go away.
The top brass was never enthusiastic for another inquiry into Bloody Sunday. Some dismissed it as just a sop to Sinn Féin, offered by Tony Blair at a critical moment in the peace process. Lord Saville’s insistence that each killing and wounding be examined individually added hugely to the length and expense of the process.
Yet the inquiry has fulfilled the essential function of clearing the air, for Bloody Sunday cast a toxic cloud over Northern Irish politics, in much the same way that the unacknowledged truth about French collaboration was allowed to taint postwar French history.
The Saville Report was never going to offer universal satisfaction, but that, too, is a measure of success. The purpose of historical inquiry is not to provide easy answers, or revenge, or even closure for the families of the bereaved. This inquiry set out to discover, once and for all, what happened; to set the record straight, and so to take the venom out of Northern Ireland’s poisoned memory.
For 38 years, the symbolism of Bloody Sunday helped to fuel a vicious conflict. That war is now over, and with publication of the Saville Report, its most notorious single event should be peacefully consigned to the past.
Obama wins one for the Presidency on the state-secrets privilege.
Another week, another legal vindication for the Bush, er, the Obama Administration's war on terror. On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cited the executive branch's state-secrecy privilege to dismiss an ACLU attempt to challenge the legality of sending terror suspects from the U.S. to other countries. Our friends on the left are now going nuts about "torture flights," but we'll take this decision as evidence that this Administration has its grown-up moments.
The case involves flight-logistics company Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary the ACLU accuses of being involved in arranging flights to move five terrorist suspects to ...
"In a government of laws," said Mr. Justice Brandeis, "existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 , at 469, 471