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The Sudden Memory of Torture

The Algerian War in French Discourse, 2000-2001

William B. Cohen

Abstract

From the beginning of the Algerian War, the central issue for most of its critics was the use of torture. When confronted with evidence of torture, French governments during the war claimed that it was the result of aberrant behavior by individual soldiers or police officers. Yet, it was used systematically. Beginning in 1955 every regiment of the French army had an interrogation officer attached to it whose job it was to gain information by all means, including torture. Special training schools were established instructing the officers on “interrogation” techniques. Hundreds of thousands of Algerians were tortured during the war. These facts have been known for years and have been most recently documented in a dissertation based on the French army archives.

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