The Algerian army, we were told by the usual suspects this afternoon – on French television as well as in America – “are not soft on terrorists” and had “expertise” in “fighting terrorism”. Too true – but only half the truth. Because they are not “soft” on hostages either. They are as ruthless with captives as they are with captors.
The slaughter of the good and the bad at the In Amenas gas plant yesterday was thus utterly predictable, because the Algerian military – the real rulers of the nation – were “blooded” in a civil war which taught them to care as little about the innocent as they did about the guilty.
It was the Algerian military which sent intelligence officers to Damascus in 1993 to learn how Hafez al-Assad destroyed the Islamists of Hama 11 years earlier – and then used the same tactics to liquidate Algeria's own Islamist insurgency.
Word has it that Algerian officers visited Syria last year to return the compliment: by teaching the Syrian military – now fighting a far more dangerous uprising – how the Algerians won their “dirty” war against the Armed Islamic Group and its al-Qa'ida affiliates.
The Algerians lent their “expertise” to Tunisia's Ben Ali just before his overthrow and offered the same to Mubarak's goons in Egypt.