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The Battle of Algiers (1966) Poster

Quotes

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Ben M'Hidi: It's hard to start a revolution. Even harder to continue it. And hardest of all to win it. But, it's only afterwards, when we have won, that the true difficulties begin. In short, Ali, there's still much to do.

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Col. Mathieu: Should we remain in Algeria? If you answer "yes," then you must accept all the necessary consequences.

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Ben M'Hidi: Jaffar says you weren't in favor of the strike.

Ali La Pointe: No, I wasn't.

Ben M'Hidi: Why not?

Ali La Pointe: Because we were ordered not to use arms.

Ben M'Hidi: Acts of violence don't win wars. Neither wars nor revolutions. Terrorism is useful as a start. But then, the people themselves must act. That's the rationale behind this strike: to mobilize all Algerians, to assess our strength.

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Col. Mathieu: We aren't madmen or sadists, gentlemen. Those who call us Fascists today, forget the contribution that many of us made to the Resistance. Those who call us Nazis, don't know that among us there are survivors of Dachau and Buchenwald. We are soldiers and our only duty is to win.

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Journalist: M. Ben M'Hidi, don't you think it's a bit cowardly to use women's baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?

Ben M'Hidi: And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenseless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.

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Col. Mathieu: So we now average 4.2 attacks a day. We must distinguish between attacks on individuals and bombings. As usual, the problem involves first, the adversary, and second, the means to destroy him. There are 400,000 Arabs in Algiers. Are they all our enemies? We know they're not. But a small minority holds sway by means of terror and violence. We must deal with this minority in order to isolate and destroy it. It's a dangerous enemy that works in the open and underground, using tried-and-true revolutionary methods as well as original tactics.

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Col. Mathieu: What were they saying in Paris yesterday?

Journalist: Nothing. Sartre's written another article.

Col. Mathieu: Will you kindly explain to me why the Sartres are always born on the other side?

Journalist: So you like Sartre, Colonel?

Col. Mathieu: Not really, but I like him even less as an adversary.

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Journalist: The law's often inconvenient, Colonel.

Col. Mathieu: And those who explode bombs in public places, do they respect the law perhaps? When you put that question to Ben M'Hidi, remember what he said?

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Col. Mathieu: To know them is to eliminate them. Consequently, the purely military aspect of the problem is secondary. More important is the policing aspect. I know you dislike that word. But it's the only one that describes the work at hand.

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Col. Mathieu: We need to have the Kasbah at our disposal. We have to sift through it and interrogate everyone. And that's where we find ourselves hindered by a conspiracy of laws and regulations that continue to operate as if Algiers were a holiday resort and not a battleground. We've requested a carte blanche, but that's very difficult to obtain. Therefore, it's necessary to find an excuse to legitimize our intervention and make it possible. It's necessary to create this for ourselves, this excuse. Unless our adversaries think of it themselves, which seems to be what they're doing.

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Col. Mathieu: The word "torture" doesn't appear in our orders. We've always spoken of interrogation as the only valid method in a police operation directed against unknown enemies. As for the NLF, they request that their members, in the event of capture, should maintain silence for twenty-four hours, and then they may talk. So, the organization has already had the time it needs to render any information useless. What type of interrogation should we choose, the one the courts use for a murder case, that drags on for months?

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French Army Officer: Listen to me! Return to your homes! What do you want?

Demonstrator #1: Independence!

Demonstrator #2: Our pride!

Demonstrator #3: We want our freedom!

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Col. Mathieu: The basis of our job is intelligence. The method interrogation. Conducted in such a way as to ensure we always get an answer. In our situation, humane consideration can only lead to despair and confusion. I'm sure all units will understand and act accordingly. Unfortunately, success doesn't depend only on us.

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Political Prisoner: [handcuffed, walking to the guillotine] God is great! God is great! Long Live Algeria! Long Live Algeria! Long Live Algeria! Long Live Algeria! Long Live Algeria! Long Live Algeria!

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Ali La Pointe: You bitch! You set me up.

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FLN Official: Remember, we are at war against colonialism. A strong army has occupied our country for 130 years. This is why the FLN has to make decisions concerning the civil life of the Algerian people. With this marriage we fulfill our duty, a duty of resistance.

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Col. Mathieu: We have to start from scratch. The only information we have concerns the organization's structure. Let's start from there. It's a pyramid organization made up of a series of sections. These sections, in turn, are made up of triangles. At the apex is the Executive Bureau. The military head of the Executive Bureau finds a competent person and names him section head: No. 1. No. 1 finds two others: Nos. 2 and 3. This makes up the first triangle. Now Nos. 2 and 3 each select two men: Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7. The reason for these geometrics is that each organization member knows only three other members. The one who chose him and the two he himself chose. Contact is made only in writing. That's why we don't know our adversaries. Because, in point of fact, they don't know each other.

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Djafar: The first section's dead. There's no one left. We lost contact with the second. The third is reorganizing. All that's left is the fourth. It's enough to start over with.

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Col. Mathieu: It's a faceless enemy, unrecognizable, blending in with hundreds of others. It is everywhere. In cafés, in the alleys of the Casbah, or in the very streets of the European quarter.

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[first lines]

French Interrogator: Couldn't you have talked sooner? It would've gone easier for you.

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Djafar: Okay, I'll explain. First, we need to get organized and secure our hideouts. Then we can take action. The organization's getting stronger, but there are still too many drunks, whores, junkies, people who talk too much, people ready to sell us out. We must win them over or eliminate them. We need to clean house first, organize the country. Only then can we take on our real enemy.

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Journalist: Mr. Ben M'Hidi, in your opinion, does the FLN still have some chance of defeating the French army?

Ben M'Hidi: The FLN has more of a chance of defeating the French army than the French have of changing the course of history.

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French Soldier: Faster, dirty Arab!

Ramel: Take this, you dog!

[bomb explodes]

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Djafar: [distributing the bomb baskets to female FLN fighters] Air France, Rue Mauritania. The café, Rue Michelet. The milk bar, Rue d'Isly. The bomb timers are short. They'll be set outside the Casbah. Taleb is waiting for you at the fish market. But then you must hurry. You only have 30 minutes to place them. Good luck. Good luck. God be with you.

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Col. Mathieu: Any of you ever suffer from tapeworm? It's a worm that can grow infinitely. You can destroy its thousands of segments, but as long as the head remains, it rebuilds and proliferates. The FLN is similarly organized. The head is the Executive Bureau. Several persons. As long as they're not eliminated, we're back to zero.

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Col. Mathieu: Like rabbits in a cage. Just as I hoped.

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Ben M'Hidi: All right. You're in charge.

Djafar: If I were in charge, you wouldn't be in Algiers now.

Ben M'Hidi: Duty first?

Djafar: Caution is best.

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Journalist: What would armed insurrection mean now?

Col. Mathieu: What it always means: an inevitable phase in revolutionary warfare. After terrorism comes armed insurrection. Just as guerrilla warfare leads to warfare proper.

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Col. Mathieu: It's not warriors we need.

Journalist: Then what?

Col. Mathieu: Political will, which is sometimes there and sometimes isn't.

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Col. Mathieu: Gentlemen, believe me, it's a vicious circle. We could talk for hours to no avail, because that isn't the problem. The problem is this: The FLN wants to throw us out of Algeria and we want to stay. Even with slight shades of opinion, you all agree that we must stay. When the FLN rebellion began, there were no shades at all. Every paper, the communist press included, wanted it crushed. We're here for that reason alone.

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Female FLN Fighter: [to Col. Mathieu] Monster! Hypocrite! You're wrong. Ali La Pointe is still in the Casbah.

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