Vijay Prashad – What Algeria’s ‘Black War’ Can Teach Us About the Syrian Crisis

For the first time – on 14 December – Algerian state television used new language on Syria. Previously, the language was ‘neutral’. No obvious position was taken on the Syrian conflict. Neither was the language pro-Syrian government nor was it pro-opposition. But on 14 December, as Aleppo fell to the Syrian government, the state television said that the government had overrun the ‘terrorists’. This is language familiar to Algerians who had suffered a decade-long war between – as the story goes – the government and the terrorists. That war, which ran from 1991 to 2002, claimed up to 200,000 lives. It is known as the Black War. Algerian state authorities have now essentially declared themselves behind the Syrian government.

News from Aleppo is shrouded in various cloaks of propaganda. Reports of brutal violence by the Syrian forces and their allies are now commonplace. Less widespread are reports of mortar fire from rebel areas in eastern Aleppo into civilian parts of government-held western Aleppo. Both kinds of reports are probably true. Long histories of revenge coupled with a particularly fratricidal war point to the viability of the reports of government violence. A pattern of rebel mortar fire suggests that what contacts in western Aleppo say are also true. Blood has flowed in Aleppo and will likely flow for the foreseeable future. Jubilation cannot be the mood. Civil wars should always end in introspection, not celebration. Dancing on the graves of so many of one’s fellow nationals is obscene.

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