Algeria: The Lesser Of Two Evils


December 18, 2009: In the last few days, police have arrested ten al Qaeda members, in two different cells. One group was operating outside the capital, and was detected because the terrorists were extorting "voluntary contributions" from small businesses in the area, and warning people not to tip off the police, or else. Some called the cops anyway. The other cell of four terrorists was operating 300 kilometers east of the capital, and were providing logistical services (buying and delivering supplies and weapons) to terrorist cells that actually made and planted bombs.

In the last three years, the government has prosecuted 2,691 corruption cases, leading to the conviction of 5,086. This was never big news because all these cases involved low ranking officials and civilians. The senior officials, who preside over, and profit from, widespread corruption, appear to be immune from investigation and prosecution. Although technically a democracy, Algeria has all the aspects of a police state, including security forces who can grab anyone, at any time, and hold them indefinitely. Torture is frequently used, and many enemies of the state simply disappear. The media is tightly controlled by the state (and allowed to censor itself). All this is necessary because the ruling families also control the economy, and have done a poor job running it. So the widespread poverty gives rise to unrest, that only police state tactics can deal with.

But the Arab form of police state is not all muscle. The "carrot and stick" approach has been around for thousands of years. For example, in the last three years, the government has distributed $166 million to victims of Islamic terrorism. As these extremists are already disliked for their seemingly random attacks on civilians, they also come off poorly in comparison with the government, which provides medical attention for the victims, security forces who often capture or kill the terrorists and, finally, cash payments to the victims. Thus, while Algerians may not like their corrupt and controlling government very much, they dislike the Islamic terrorists even more.

December 17, 2009: In the desert south, police detected, tracked and killed four Islamic terrorists who were in the midst of planning an attack. Police ambushed the four men, and killed them in a shoot out. Islamic terrorists prefer to die fighting, since otherwise they face torture and years of imprisonment,

December 5, 2009: Last month, the most spectacular army operations consisted of searching mountain areas (along the coast, and deep inland) for Islamic terrorists, and searching for half century old landmines along the borders. The landmine search was more stressful than the terrorist sweeps. The mines are definitely there (the French finally turned over the colonial era maps), while the Islamic terrorists are fading away because of arrests, desertion and combat wounds. There have actually been few casualties while clearing the old mines, and 5,700 were found and disposed last month. That saves a few people (and several animals) from getting killed or injured in the future. Last year, over a hundred Algerians were killed or wounded by these old mines.


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