03 July 2005

A Farewell to Palavers? Terrorism's Legitimacy

April 23, 2005

Hookah Palaver IV: Terrorism, Yay?

On a cool Saturday night, we took in a renowned film focusing on the role of terrorism in an independence war. Since I read that “The Battle of Algiers” was being screened in the Pentagon (with the hope that it would shed light on the insurgency in Iraq), an examination of the merits of terrorism would make for an interesting Hookah Palaver.

Cha Cha, Jenny Marie, Anjy, Kentaro, Natalie, and Jennifer showed that their RSVPs were indeed their bond. Many thanks must be bestowed on James for his hospitality.

While ordering Al's Pizza and setting up the hookah, we started out with a DVD “extra” – a half hour discussion featuring Richard Clarke and a less celebrated former counterterrorism bureaucrat (the latter was from the State Dept.). You may recall Richard Clarke as the pre-September 11, 2001, terrorism Cassandra on the National Security Council for both Clinton and Bush – you know, those halcyon days when obfuscating titles like “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” lulled our leaders into a false sense of security. Their discussion centered on the continuing relevance of “The Battle of Algiers,” whether terrorism is ever the right tactic, and the long-term outcomes of relying on torture.

Serendipitously, further insight into the cogency of “The Battle of Algiers” was provided by George Will’s op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post!

With Jonah now smouldering, we turned to the main film. Although not graphic by today’s standards, “The Battle of Algiers” does not shy away from the wages of war. These range from the bombings and tortures carried out by French soldiers (between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Algerians died during the war for independences) and the FLN’s (National Liberation Front’s) bombings of places frequented by Algeria’s French residents. One indelible image is of a young child eating an ice cream in a cafĂ© shortly before it is reduced to rubble.

The film crystallizes what I alluded to in the event details – that definitions of terrorism are malleable, and that in some cases it may be justified. In addition to waxing philosophical on the ideas prompted by the film, we also entertained other notions, such as the viability of traversing the lower 48 states, and, dare I say the necessity, of procuring a chauffeur.

Given that a palaver is 5hist. a parley between African or other natives and traders, James has suggested that it may not be apt to have another Hookah Palaver sans an African – yours truly, who is leaving for, yes, Gambia in West Africa this July. I hope that Jonah will still make appearances, as he, his owner, and our friends have brought good times to Why Did Blacks Vote Republican in 2004?, Gentrification, Parley Beyond the Parochial, and even Our Final House Party. Thanks all!

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