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Georges Catroux

Georges Catroux


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Georges Catroux, the son of a general, was born in in France in 1877. During the First World War was captured while commanding a company of Algerian tirailleurs.

After the war Catroux was commander of an army corps in Algeria. A supporter of military reform he was sacked by General Maurice Gamelin. He was recalled in August 1939 when he was appointed governor general of Indo-China. In June 1940, he rejected the armistice and continued to support the Allies.

In July 1940 Henri-Philippe Petain ordered Catroux to return to France. He refused and instead joined General Charles De Gaulle in London. After the successful Operation Torch Catoux was appointed commander in chief of Free French forces in the Middle East. While in this post Catroux came into conflict with General Charles De Gaulle over his views that Syria and the Lebanon should be granted independence after the war.

Catroux was appointed governor general of Algeria on 4th June 1944. He immediately announced that he planned to give French citizenship to certain categories of people in the country.

After the war Catroux was ambassador to Moscow (1945-48) and after retiring was recalled to become governor general of Algeria in February 1956. His announcement that he supported the idea that some French colonies should be granted independence caused tremendous controversy and after four days in office was forced to resign. Georges Catroux died in 1969.


Birthdays in History on January 29

    Emmanuel Swedenborg, Swedish religious leader (Angelic Wisdom) Hubert K Poot, Dutch poet Daniel Bernoulli, mathematician (10 time French award), born in Basel, Switzerland Jeffrey Amherst, English gov-gen of America/fieldmarshal Paul Rabaut, French Huguenot pastor (d. 1794)

Thomas Paine

1737 Thomas Paine, English-American political essayist (Common Sense, Age of Reason), born in Thetford, England (d. 1809)

    King Christian VII of Denmark (d. 1808) Moses Cleaveland, founder of Cleveland (d. 1806) Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee III, Congressman, Governor of Virginia and American General Albert Gallatin, Swiss-American politician, Secretary of the Treasury (1801-14), born in Geneva, Switzerland (d. 1849) Johann Gottfried Seume, German writer (Spaziergang nach Syrakus), born in Poserna, Saxony-Anhalt, (d. 1810) Vasili A Zjukovski, Russian folk poet/translator (Homerus) [NS=Feb 9] Henry Neele, poet, born in London, England James Outram, Bulterley Hall Derbyshire, general

William McKinley

1843 William McKinley, 25th US President (Republican: 1897-1901), born in Niles, Ohio (d. 1901)

    Karol Olszewski, Polish scientist (d. 1915) Ebenezer Howard, pioneer of garden cities, born in London, England Lawrence Hargrave, inventor (box kite) Willem PC Knuttel, Dutch bibliographer/librarian

Anton Chekhov

1860 Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright (Cherry Orchard), born in Taganrog, Russia (d. 1904)

    Romain Rolland, French writer (Jean-Christophe) (Nobel 1915) Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Spanish writer (4 Horsemen of Apocalypse) Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, Italian explorer/climber (Mt St Elias)

John D. Rockefeller Jr

1874 John D. Rockefeller Jr, American financier and philanthropist, born in Cleveland, Ohio


11. French Syria (1919-1946)

Crisis Phase (July 2, 1919-July 17, 1925): Syrian nationalists, meeting in Damascus on July 2, 1919, called for the independence of the Syrian territory from France. French troops took control of the Syrian territory on September 15, 1919, and General Henri Gouraud was named French High Commissioner for on October 9, 1919. Syrian nationalists rebelled against the French government beginning in December 1919. Syrian nationalists declared Syria’s independence on March 8, 1920, and proclaimed Faisal Hussein as King of Syria on March 11, 1920. During the San Remo Conference held in San Remo, Italy on April 19-26, 1920, the Supreme Council of Allied Powers (SCAP) assigned a mandate over the Syrian territory to the French government. On July 14, 1920, General Henri Gouraud issued a surrender ultimatum to King Faisal Hussein, who shortly surrendered to French authorities. French troops took control of the city of Aleppo on July 23, 1920. French troops commanded by General Mariano Goybet clashed with Syrian rebels commanded by Yusuf al-‘Azma near the town of Maysalun on July 23-24, 1920, resulting in the deaths of some 400 Syrian rebels and 42 French soldiers. French troops took control of the city of Damascus on July 25, 1920. King Faisal Hussein formally relinquished the throne of Syria on July 25, 1920. France established the states of Damascus and Aleppo, along with the autonomous Alawite territory, within the French Mandate of Syria on December 1, 1920. France established the autonomous Druze territory in the southern part of the state of Damascus on May 1, 1921. French troops suppressed a rebellion in the Alawite state led by Shaykh Saleh al-Ali on June 15, 1921. On March 4, 1922, the French government transformed the autonomous Druze territory into the Souaida state (Jabal Druze state). Government police suppressed Syrian nationalist demonstrations in Damascus on April 8-12, 1922, resulting in the deaths of three individuals. France established the Syrian Federation on July 1, 1922, comprising the Damascus state, Aleppo state, and autonomous Alawite territory. Subhi Bay Barakat al-Khalidi was elected president of the Syrian Federation. The League of Nations (LoN) Council formally approved the French Mandate of Syria on July 24, 1922. General Maxime Weygand was named French High Commissioner for Syria on April 19, 1923. The League of Nations Mandate of Syria and Lebanon under French Administration formally entered into force on September 23, 1923. General Maurice Sarrail was named French High Commissioner for Syria on November 29, 1924. The French government dissolved the Syrian Federation, and combined the states of Damascus and Aleppo to form the State of Syrian on January 1, 1925. The People’s Party (Hizb al-sha’b), a Syrian nationalist group headed by Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar and Faris al-Khuri, was formally established on June 5, 1925. On July 11, 1925, government police arrested three Druze sheikhs in Damascas and imprisoned the sheikhs in Palmyra in central Syria.

Conflict Phase (July 18, 1925-June 1, 1927): Druze tribesmen led by Sultan Pasha el-Attrash rebelled against the French government in the Souaida state beginning on July 18, 1925, and Druze rebels took control of the town of Salkhad on July 20, 1925. Druze rebels ambushed some 160 French-led troops commanded by Captain Gabriel Normand near Al-Kafr (Kafer) on July 21, 1925, resulting in the deaths of some 115 French soldiers. Some 500 Druze rebels and Bedouin tribesmen commanded by Sultan al-Atrash attacked French government troops near the town of Al-Mazra’a on August 2-3, 1925, resulting in the deaths of some 600 French soldiers. Some 600 French troops commanded by Major Kratzert occupied the village of Al-Musayfirah (Mousseifré) on September 15, 1925. Druze rebels attacked French troops in the village of Al-Musayfirah (Mousseifré) on September 16-17, 1925, resulting in the deaths of 47 French soldiers and more than 300 Druze rebels. French troops withdrew from the city of Al-Suwayda (Soueida), the capital of the Jabal al-Druze state, on September 24, 1925. French government troops suppressed a rebellion led by Fawzi al-Qawuqji in Hama in the state of Damascus on October 4-5, 1925, resulting in the deaths of 344 civilians and 76 Syrian rebels. Druze rebels commanded by Hassan al-Kharrat and Nasib al-Bakri attacked French troops and took control of the Damascus on October 18, 1925. French military force bombarded Damascus on October 18-20, 1925, resulting in the deaths of 1,416 civilians and 137 French soldiers. Some 15,000 individuals were displaced as a result of the bombardment of Damascus. The French government declared martial law in Damascus on October 20, 1925. Druze rebels captured Hasbaya on November 9, 1925, but French troops recaptured the city on December 5, 1925. President Subhi Bay Barakat al-Khalidi resigned on December 21, 1925. Henry de Jouvenel was appointed as French High Commissioner for Syria on December 23, 1925. French government troops re-captured Al-Suwayda (Soueida) on April 25, 1926. Ahmad Nami was elected as president of the State of Syria on April 28, 1926. French troops clashed with Druze rebels in the Maydan (Midan) quarter of Damascus on May 6, 1926, resulting in the deaths of several French soldiers. French military forces bombarded the Maydan (Midan) quarter of Damascus on May 7-9, 1926, resulting in the deaths of some 500 civilians and 100 Druze rebels. French troops launched a military offensive against Druze rebels in the Ghuta region on July 18-26, 1926, resulting in the deaths of some 1,500 individuals. Auguste Henri Ponsot was appointed as French High Commissioner for Syria in August 1926. French troops suppressed the Druze rebellion on June 1, 1927. Several thousand individuals, including some 2,000 French soldiers and 6,000 Syrian rebels, were killed during the conflict. Some 100,000 individuals were displaced during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (June 2, 1927-April 17, 1946): The French government renamed the Souaida state as the Jabal Druze state on June 2, 1927. The National Bloc (al-Kutla al-Waṭaniyya), an alliance of nationalist groups led by Ibrahim Hannanu and Hashim Atassi, was established in 1928. High Commissioner Auguste Henri Ponsot appointed Taj al-Din al-Hasani as head of state (head of government) of Syria on February 15, 1928. Elections for a 70-member constituent assembly were held on April 10 and April 24, 1928. The Constituent Assembly convened on June 9, 1928, and presented a draft constitution to the Syrian assembly on August 7, 1928. Several parts of the draft constitution were unacceptable to the French government. André François-Poncet, the French High Commissioner, dissolved the Constituent Assembly on May 14, 1930. The French high commissioner promulgated a constitution for the Syrian State on May 22, 1930, which provided for an elected parliament and president. Legislative elections were held on December 20, 1931 and January 4, 1932, and the National Bloc won 17 out of 69 seats in the Syrian Chamber of Deputies. The Syrian Chamber of Deputies elected Mohammed Ali al-Abid as president on June 11, 1932. The Syrian State was renamed the Republic of Syria in July 1932. Damien de Martel was appointed as French High Commissioner for Syria on July 16, 1933. The governments of France and Syria signed the Franco-Syrian Treaty on November 16, 1933, promising French support for an independent Syria within four years. On November 3, 1934, the French high commissioner suspended the Chamber of Deputies in which there was strong opposition to the Franco-Syrian Treaty. Following the closure of the National Bloc office in Damascus and the arrest of two National Bloc leaders (Fakhri al-Barudi and Sayf al-Din al-Ma’min) by government police, the National Bloc called for a general strike starting on January 20, 1936. Government police killed two demonstrators in Allepo on January 21, 1936. Government troops killed four protesters in Damascus on January 21, 1936. and killed two individuals in a funeral procession in Damascus on January 22, 1936. Government troops killed three demonstrators in Homs on January 22, 1936. Some 40 demonstrators were killed by government troops in Hama on February 6, 1936. Three demonstrators were killed by government troops in Homs on February 8, 1936. Five demonstrators were killed by government police in Dayr al-Zur on February 10, 1936. The French government declared martial law in Damascus on February 10, 1936, and declared martial law in Aleppo, Homs, and Hama on February 12, 1936. Jamil Mardam and Nasil al-Bakri, leaders of the National Bloc, were arrested by government police and deported in February 11, 1936. On March 2, 1936, the French government agreed to negotiations with the National Bloc, which called off the general strike on March 6, 1936. Representatives of the French and Syrian governments signed the French-Syrian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance on September 9, 1936, which provided for the end of the mandate within three years. Legislative elections were held on November 30, 1936. The Syrian Chamber of Deputies elected Hashim al-Atassi of the National Bloc as president on December 21, 1936. On December 26, 1936, the Chamber of Deputies ratified the French-Syrian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance (although the treaty was never ratified by the French government). President Hashim al-Atassi resigned on July 7, 1939. Gabriel Puaux, the French High Commissioner for Syria, suspended the Syrian constitution on July 10, 1939. On the same day, High Commissioner Gabriel Puaux dissolved the Chamber of Deputies and appointed a Council of Commissioners headed by Bahij al-Khatib to administer Syria. The French Mandate of Syria came under the control of “Vichy France” on July 10, 1940. Henri Dentz was appointed as Vichy French High Commissioner for Syria on December 6, 1940. “Free French” troops and British troops liberated Syria from Vichy France on June 14, 1941. Georges Catroux was appointed as General Delegate of “Free France” (led by General Charles de Gaulle) for Syria on June 24, 1941. General Charles de Gaulle appointed Taj al-Din al-Hasani as president of Syria on September 12, 1941. Georges Catroux, General Delegate General of “Free France” for Syria, declared the independence of the Republic of Syria on September 27, 1941. President Taj al-Din al-Hasani died of a heart attack on January 17, 1943. Georges Catroux, the General Delegate of “Free France” for Syria, restored the constitution of the Republic of Syria on March 25, 1943. Jean Helleu was appointed as the General Delegate of “Free France” for Syria on June 7, 1943. A newly-elected Chamber of Deputies convened and a elected a president on August 17, 1943. Yves Chataigneau was appointed as General Delegate of “Free France” for Syria on November 23, 1943. Etienne Beynet was appointed as General Delegate of “Free France” for Syria on January 23, 1944. On May 17, 1945, French troops landed in Beirut, Lebanon in order to restore French administration over Lebanon and Syria following the end of the Second World War. French troops shelled the Syrian parliament and attempted to arrest Syrian government leaders in Damascus on May 29-31, 1945, resulting in the deaths of some 500 individuals. Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain demanded a ceasefire on May 31, 1945. The League of Arab States (LAS) Council expressed support for Syrian independence on June 6, 1945, and demanded the withdrawal of French troops from Syria on June 8, 1945. The French government agreed to transfer command of the Syrian military to the Republic of Syria on August 1, 1945. The Republic of Syria achieved independence when the last remaining French troops withdrew on April 17, 1946.

[Sources: Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 50-51 Brogan, 1992, 358-367 Clodfelter, 1992, 629-630, 1031-1032 Jessup, 1998, 712-716 Langer, 1972, 1088-1090, 1298-1300 Survey of International Affairs (SIA), 1928, 328-332.]

Selected Bibliography

Arslan, Emir Chekib. 1924. “Syrian Opposition to French Rule.” Current History 20 (May): 239-247.

Khoury, Philip S. 1987. Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920-1945. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Editorial Note

Principal Members of the Delegations to the Fourth Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Moscow, March 10– April 24, 1947 88

George C. Marshall , Secretary of State

Robert D. Murphy , United States Political Adviser for Germany

General Mark W. Clark , United States High Commissioner to Austria

Walter Bedell Smith , Ambassador in the Soviet Union

Benjamin V. Cohen , Counselor, Department of State

General Lucius D. Clay , Commander-in-Chief Europe Military Governor for Germany

Major General William H. Draper , Economic Adviser to the Military Governor for Germany

H. Freeman Matthews , Director, Office of European Affairs, Department of State

Charles E. Bohlen , Special Assistant to the Secretary of State

James Riddleberger , Chief, Division of Central European Affairs, Department of State

John G. Erhardt , Minister in Austria

united kingdom delegation

Ernest Bevin , Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Sir William Strang , Political Adviser to the Commander-in-Chief of British Forces of Occupation in Germany

Lord Samuel Hood , Deputy to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the Peace Treaty with Austria

Sir Maurice Drummond Peterson , Ambassador in the Soviet Union

Sir Edmund Lee Hall-Patch , Deputy Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

William Henry Bradshaw Mack , Political Adviser to the Commander-in-Chief of British Forces of Occupation in Austria

Lieutenant General Sir Brian Hubert Robertson , Commander-in-Chief of British Forces of Occupation in Germany Military Governor for Germany

Major General T. J. W. Winterton , British Deputy High Commissioner to Austria

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov , Minister for Foreign Affairs

Andrey Yanuaryevich Vyshinsky , Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs

Fyodor Tarasovich Gusev , Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs

Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasiliy Danilovich Sokolovsky , Chief of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany

General Vladimir Vasilyevich Kurasov , Soviet High Commissioner to Austria

Vladimir Semenovich Semenov , Political Adviser to the Soviet Military Administration in Germany

Yevgeniy Dmitriyevich Kiselev , Political Adviser to the Soviet High Commissioner to Austria Soviet Diplomatic Representative to the Austrian Federal Republic

Andrei Andreyevich Smirnov , Chief, Third European Division (Central Europe), Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Georges Bidault , Minister for Foreign Affairs

Maurice Couve de Murville , Director General for Political Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Jacques-Camille Paris , Minister in the United Kingdom

Général d’Armée Georges Catroux , Ambassador in the Soviet Union

Hervé Alphand , Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Tarbé de Saint-Hardouin , Political Adviser to the French Commander-in-Chief in Germany

Louis de Monicault , Political Adviser to the French Commissioner to Austria Minister in Austria


Tag Archives: general georges catroux

Dien Bien Phu Today

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sixty-six years ago the ragged and starving remnants of a French expeditionary Force was dying an excruciating death at Dien Bien Phu. They were the victims of a wrong war, a failed strategy, and the arrogance of their high command. They were sacrificed on the false belief that if they defeated the Main Force of the Viet Minh in a conventional battle, that they would win the war and dictate the terms of peace. But it was a battle in which they chose bad ground, and could not receive the full benefit of their more advanced weaponry because they were sent to fight in an area too far from their supporting forces. Likewise they were fighting a far more resourceful and better led adversary, that was not fighting for empire, but independence. Something that Americans who really know our history should understand.

Dien Bien Phu was an epic battle in a tragic war. Sadly, most people today neither know or care what happened in the valley where the small border post named Dien Bien Phu became synonymous with futile and forgotten sacrifice.

Over the years fewer and fewer remembrances took place. Some are in Vietnam and others in France. In 2018, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe laid a wreath at the French Monument at Dien Bien Phu, accompanied by several elderly veterans of the battle. The French veterans were met with kindness by their former opponents.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at Dien Bien Phu’s French Memorial

General Vo Nguyen Giap in 2011

Years before, on May 7th 2011 in Hanoi a small remembrance was held to mark the fall of Dien Bien Phu and honor the victor, 101 year old General Vo Nguyen Giap at his home. Giap was the last senior commander on either side at that time, and he died a year and a half later at the age of 102.

That 2011 ceremony was one of the few remembrances held anywhere marking that battle which was one of the watersheds of the 20th Century. A half a world away in Houston Texas a small group of French veterans, expatriates and historians laid a wreath at the Vietnam War Memorial. In Paris an ever shrinking number of French survivors used to gather each year on May 7th at 1815 hours for a religious service at the Church of Saint Louis des Invalides to remember the dead and missing of the French Expeditionary Corps who were lost in Indochina. A small number of other small ceremonies were held as late as 2014. There appear to be no services to honor their memory this year, especially since COVID 19 has ensured that no significant public memorials are possible, but even before this year the ranks of few men left from the battle pretty much have doomed such ceremonies,

Legionnaires of the Second Foreign Legion Parachute Battalion at Dien Bien Phu

This battle is nearly forgotten by time even though it and the war that it symbolized is probably the one that we need to learn. We didn’t learn them in Iraq, or Afghanistan.

Captured French soldiers are marched through the fields after their surrender at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. More than 10,000 French troops were captured after a 55 day siege . The French defeat ended nearly a century of French occupation of Indochina. (AP Photo/Vietnam News Agency)

French Prisoners

On May 8th 1954 the French garrison of Dien Bien Phu surrendered to the Viet Minh. It was the end of the ill-fated Operation Castor in which the French had planned to lure the Viet Minh Regulars into open battle and use superior firepower to decimate them. The strategy which had been used on a smaller scale the previous year at Na Son.

The French had thought they had come up with a template for victory based on their battle at Na Son in how to engage and destroy the Viet Minh. The plan was based on what the French called the “Air-land base.” It involved placing strong forces in an easily defensible position deep behind enemy lines supplied by air.

At Na Sonthe plan worked as intended. The French were on high ground, had superior artillery, and air Support close at hand. Likewise they were blessed by General Giap using human wave assaults against their fortress, which made the Viet Minh troops cannon fodder for the French defenders. Despite that, Na Sonwas a near run thing for the French and had almost no effect on Viet Minh operations elsewhere while tying down a light division equivalent and a large portion of French air power.

Viet Minh Regulars

The French took away the wrong lesson from Na-Son and attempted to repeat what they thought was success at Dien Bien Phu. The French desired to use Dien Bien Phu as a base of operations against the Viet Minh. Unfortunately the French chose badly. Instead of high ground that they chose at Na Son, they elected to occupy a marshy valley surrounded by hills covered in dense jungle. They went into the battle light on artillery, and the air head they established was at the far end of the range of French aircraft, especially tactical air forces which were in short supply. To make matters worse, General Navarre, commander of French forces in Indochina was informed that the French government was going to begin peace talks and that he would receive no further reinforcements. Nevertheless, he elected to continue the operation.

French Paras Drop into Dien Bien Phu

Once on the ground French logistics needs were greater than the French Air Force and their American contractors could supply. French positions at Dien Bien Phu were exposed to an an enemy who held the high ground, and had more powerful artillery. They also placed their units in defensive positions that were not mutually supporting, and were under constant surveillance by the Viet Minh.The terrain was so poor that French units were incapable of any meaningful offensive operations against the Viet Minh. As such they could only dig in and wait for battle. Despite this, many of their positions were not adequately fortified, and their artillery was in emplaced positions that were easily targeted by Viet Minh artillery, which were not hardened against artillery fire, and were completely exposed to the enemy once they opened fire.

Major Marcel Bigeard

The French garrison was a good quality military force composed of veteran units. It was comprised of French and Vietnamese paratroopers, known as Paras, Foreign Legion parachute and infantry units, French Colonials (Marines), North Africans and Vietnamese troops. Ordinarily in a pitched battle on a better choice of battle, these forces would have done well. But this was no ordinary battle and their Viet Minh opponents were equally combat hardened, well led and well supplied and fighting for their independence.

Many of the French officers including Lieutenant Colonel Langlais and Major Marcel Bigeard commander of the 6th Colonial Parachute Battalion were among the best leaders in the French Army. Others who served in Indochina including David Galulaand Roger Trinquier would write books and develop counter-insurgency tacticswhich would help Americans in Iraq. Unfortunately the French High Command badly underestimated the capabilities and wherewithal of General Giapand his crack divisions on such a battlefield. This was not a counterinsurgency campaign, but a conventional battle in which the French discovered that they were in no position to win.

Viet Minh Supply Column

Giap rapidly concentrated his forces and built excellent logistics support. He placed his artillery in well concealed and fortified positions which could use direct fire on French positions. Giap also had more and heavier artillery than the French believed him to have. Additionally he brought in a large number of anti-aircraft batteries whose firepower, effectively used from well concealed positions enabled the Viet Minh to take a heavy toll among the French aircraft that attempted to supply the base.

Unlike at Na-Son, Giap did not throw his men away in human assaults. Instead he used his Sappers (combat engineers) to build protective trenches leading up to the very wire of French defensive positions. These trenches provided both concealment and protection from the French. In time these trenches came to resemble a spider web that enveloped the French base.

Without belaboring my point, the French fought hard as did the Viet Minh. However, one after another French positions were overwhelmed by accurate artillery and well planned attacks. The French vainly hoped for U.S. air intervention, even to the possibility of the United States would uses nuclear weapons against the Viet Minh. President Dwight Eisenhower was a realist, and despite the advice of men like General Curtis LeMay refused to exercise either a conventional or nuclear response to rescue the French from a debacle of their own making. Eisenhower understood that the American people were not about to enter another Asian war so soon after the armistice in Korea.

French Wounded Awaiting Medivac

Relief forces were unable to get through the Viet Minh and the severer terrain which limited their movements and prevented the use of armored and mechanized units. Thus, the garrison at Dien Bien Phu died, despite the bravery of the Paratroops. Colonials and Legionaries.

The French garrison was let down by their high command and their government and lost the battle due to inadequate logistics and air power. The survivors endured a brutal forced march of nearly 400 miles on foot to POW camps in which many died. Many soldiers who survived the hell of Dien Bien Phuwere subjected to torture, including a practice that we call “water boarding.”

General Georges Catroux who presided over the official inquiry into the debacle at Dien Bien Phu wrote in his memoirs: “It is obvious that there was, on the part of our commanding structure, an excess of confidence in the merit of our troops and in the superiority of our material means.”

Despite the torture they endured, few French troops caved to the Viet Minh interrogations and torture but some would come away with the belief that one had to use such means to fight the revolutionaries. Some French leaders, units and their Algerian comrades would apply these lessons against each other within a year of their release from Viet Minh Captivity. French soldiers and officers were shipped directly from Indochina to Algeria to wage another protracted counterinsurgency often against Algerians that they had served alongside in Indochina. The Algerian campaign proved to be even more brutal and it was lost politically before it even began. The film Lost Command, and the novel The Centurions by Jean Lartenguyexposed this brutal truth, as did Alistair Horne’s Classic A Savage War of Peacedid as well.

The March to Captivity

The wars in Indochina and Algeria tore the heart out of the French Army. The defeats inflicted a terrible toll. In Indochina many French career soldiers felt that the government’s “lack of interest in the fate of both thousands of missing French prisoners and loyal North Vietnamese…as dishonorable.” Divisions arose between those who served and those who remained serving NATOin France or Germany. This created bitter enmity between soldiers who had already endured the aftermath of the First World War, the defeat of 1940 by Germany, the division of Free French Forces, and those of the Nazi allied Vichy government.

Those divisions in the French military and society remained well after the war and those divisions were fully on display in Indochina and Algeria.

As a result France would endure a failed military coup which involved many who had fought in Vietnam and Algeria. Having militarily won that war these men called “The Centurions” by Jean Lartenguy had been turned into liars by their government. By military Standards they had successful used counterinsurgency tactics to win the war in a military sense, although their opponents still remained. These men were forced to abandon those who they had fought for and when President De Gaulle declared that Algeria would be granted independence, the men who had sacrificed so much mutinied against their government.

But the mutiny had little popular support, the people rallied around De Gaulle, and it failed. Many of the leaders, including senior generals and admirals who took part in, supported, or knew about the mutiny were tried, imprisoned, exiled or disgraced. The Colonial troops from Indochina, or North Africa who remained loyal to France were left without homes in their now “independent” nations. many Algerians fled to France as they were French citizens. Those from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fled to wherever they could find refugee.

The French and their colonial ally survivors of Dien Bien Phu saw the battle as a defining Moment in their lives. . “They responded with that terrible cry of pain which pretends to free a man from his sworn duty, and promises such chaos to come: ‘Nous sommes trahis!’-‘We are betrayed.’

The effects of the wars in French Indochina, Algeria and Vietnam on the French military establishment were long lasting and often tragic. The acceptance of torture as a means to an end sullied even the hardest French officers. Men like Galula and Marcel Bigeard refused to countenance it, while others like General Paul Aussaresses never recanted.

One of the most heart rending parts of the Dien Bien Phu story for me is that of Easter 1954 which fell just prior to the end for the French:

“In all Christendom, in Hanoi Cathedral as in the churches of Europe the first hallelujahs were being sung. At Dienbeinphu, where the men went to confession and communion in little groups, Chaplain Trinquant, who was celebrating Mass in a shelter near the hospital, uttered that cry of liturgical joy with a heart steeped in sadness it was not victory that was approaching but death.” A battalion commander went to another priest and told him “we are heading toward disaster.” (The Battle of Dienbeinphu, Jules Roy, Carroll and Graf Publishers, New York, 1984 p.239)

Like many American veterans of Vietnam, many of the survivors of Dien Bien Phu made peace and reconciled with the Vietnamese soldiers who opposed them. While many still regretted losing they respected their Vietnamese opponents and questioned the leadership of their country and army. Colonel Jacques Allaire, who served as a lieutenant in a battalion under the command of Major Marcel Bigeardreflected on his thoughts to a Vietnamese correspondent in 2014:

“I am now 92 years old and not a single day has gone by since the Dien Bien Phu loss that I haven’t wondered to myself about why the French army lost…Victory was impossible and too far away from us. The aircrafts were not able to give us relief. The French Government changed 19 times in nine years and that messed everything up. General Navarre did not know anything about the battlefield in Vietnam. After the Na San battle, the French commanders thought they could win and decided to attack at Dien Bien Phu, but they were wrong. It was Vietnamese soldiers who owned the hills, because it was their country… I respect my own enemies, who fought hard for national independence…Vietnam Minh soldiers were true soldiers with the will, courage and morality…”

As a veteran of Iraq whose father served in Vietnam I feel an almost a spiritual link to our American and French brothers in arms who fought at Dien Bien Phu, the Street Without Joy, Algiers and places like Khe Sanh, Hue City, the Ia Drangand the Mekong. When it comes to this time of year I always have a sense of melancholy and dread as I think of the unlearned lessons and future sacrifices that we may be asked to make, and not just military when it comes to the novel Coronavirus Pandemic.

Legionairs on the Street Without Joy

The lessons of the French at Dien Bien Phuand in Indochina were not learned by the United States as it entered Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor were the lessons of The French Algeria. It was an arrogance for which Americans paid dearly. I do not think that many in our political, media and pundits or military have entirely learned or that we in the military have completely shaken ourselves. We lost 54,000 dead in Vietnam, nearly 4500 in Iraq and so far over 2400 in Afghanistan, and 20,000 wounded which does not count many of the PTSD or TBI cases. Add the casualties suffered by our NATO allies the number of allied dead is now over 3500. Some 36,000 Afghan National Army soldiers and Police officers have been killed. Afghan civilian deaths are estimated between 100,000 and 400,000, not counting the wounded or those killed in Pakistan. In January 2018 the Pentagon classified data on Afghan military, police, and civilian casualties.

The Afghan debacle has spanned three Presidential administrations, so there accountability for it must be shared between Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump, their administrations, the military high command, the Congress, and the civilian population of the United States which remained for the most part in a state of peace, despite a few inconveniences in domestic and international air travel. President Trump has shifted gears from the time he was a candidate when he pronounced the war “lost” to when addressed it as President on August 21st 2017. In his speech at fort Myer Virginia he said:

“When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into: big and intricate problems. But, one way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win.”

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen…”

There are those even as we have been at war for almost 19 years in Afghanistan who advocate even more interventions in places that there is no good potential outcome, only variations on bad outcomes. I do not know how the President who calls himself a “Problem solver” or ”Wartime President” who will define winning, in war, or in the midst of a pandemic which has killed more Americans than were lost in combat in every military operation since the 1958 Lebanon Intervention. Bur now, in 2020, how many more American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen will need die for a “victory” that we cannot even define? Likewise, how many Americans will have to die from a virus because their President and many other leaders minimize its potential for mass death, social and economic disruption, and division?

French Navy F-8 Bearcat at Dien Bien Phu

Like the French our troops who returned from Vietnam were forgotten.The U.S. Army left Vietnam and returned to a country deeply divided by the war. Vietnam veterans remained ostracized by the society until the 1980s. As Lieutenant General Harold Moore who commanded the battalion at the Ia Drang immortalized in the film We Were Soldiersrecounted “in our time battles were forgotten, our sacrifices were discounted, and both our sanity and suitability for life in polite American society were publicly questioned.”

I think that will be the case for those of us who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria. Americans love to say they support the troops and are overwhelmingly polite and even kind when they encounter veterans. But that being said even as they do that they don’t are ignorant about our campaigns, battles, and sacrifices and even worse fail to hold the government regardless of administration accountable for sending American troops into wars that they cannot win. That being said the Trump administration is talking up and ramping up for a possible showdown with Iran.

I guess that is why I identify so much with the men of Dien Bien Phu.The survivors of that battle are now in their nineties and dissolved their Veterans of Dien Bien Phu association in 2014 due to the difficulties most had in traveling.

For those interested in the French campaign in Indochina it has much to teach us. Good books on the subject include The Last Valley by Martin Windrow, Hell in a Very Small Place by Bernard Fall The Battle of Dien Bien Phuby Jules Roy and The Battle of Dien Bien Phu – The Battle America Forgot by Howard Simpson. For a history of the whole campaign, read Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall. A novel that has some really good insights into the battle and the French Paras and Legionnaires who fought in Indochina and Algeria is Jean Larteguy’s The Centurions.

I always find Fall’s work poignant. The French journalist served as a member of the French Resistance in the Second World War and soldier later and then became a journalist covering the Nuremberg Trials and both the French and American wars in Vietnam. He was killed on February 21st 1967 near Hue by what was then known as a “booby-trap” and what would now be called an IED while covering a platoon of U.S. Marines.

Sadly, most of the leaders in the Trump Administration, Congress, business, the greater civil population, and even some in the military ignore about COVID 19. The battle is not a conventional war. It is a battle against an unseen enemy that is not fighting a conventional war. We haven’t even understood how to wage such a war over the long term, much less how to deal with a non ideological, non religious, or non nationalistic enemy, such as a virus during a pandemic.

Now humanity is waging an asymmetrical conflict between an inhuman virus which adapts, infects, and kills without thinking, while human beings are divided between their desire to preserve life and those who do not care how many people die so long as their way of life is preserved, in the way that they knew it. However, the keys to defeating the virus, are similar to counterinsurgency doctrine. The Virus has to be identified, its victims quarantined, their contacts tracked, effective treatments developed, especially a vaccine that will protect people, and allow the resumption of normal life.

This isn’t rocket science. Until virologists and epidemiologists can develop effective vaccines and medicines to alleviate and mitigate the worst symptoms, governments and citizens must be willing to do practice non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) such as social distancing and wearing face masks, which are proven by history and science to slow rates of infection and death, whether compliance is voluntary or mandated by criminal law. No person has the right to prioritize their personal freedoms over the lives of others. This is part of the social contract developed in the earliest of human civilizations, and in the teachings of Jesus the Christ who told his disciples This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

If the Trump Administration choses to ignore science and history regarding the COVID 19 pandemic, it will experience the same humiliation that France encountered in Indochina and Algeria, as well as the American experience in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. If it does so for purely economic reasons, being willing to sacrifice people for comics and profits, than its immorality and vice is too great to reconcile with any human understanding of the sacred value of all human life.

I do pray that we will learn the lessons before we enter yet another hell somewhere else, but then we already have doe so, since COVID 19 has already claimed as many American lives as were lost in every conflict since the 1958 intervention in Lebanon and every war, conflict, incident, or operation since.

Whether you understand it or not, the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu isn’t something that we cannot learn from today. One can never underestimate one’s enemy, or overestimate their ability to defeat it. Nor can they ignore the advice of historians, scientists, sociologists, physicians, and military leaders. Sadly, it seems to me that Donald Trump and his Administration and followers are more than willing to follow in the footsteps of all who in their interest willing to sacrifice the lives of the innocent, be they soldiers, Medical personnel, civilians, or others deemed life unworthy of life. So why not lead more people to death in order to maintain power and profits.

I won’t say anything else tonight, as Imam tired but anxious about the results of a COVID 19 test that Judy and I took late Monday afternoon as a result of a possible exposure Judy might have had last Friday. While I do not think that either of us will test positive, the current situation where so many Americans do not seem to give a damn about the lives of others in the midst of a highly infectious and deadly pandemic are now personal. As are the histories of those who promote their stupidity: leaders who dodged the draft, or never served at all, either on the front lines of combat or in the battle against infectious diseases decide that human lives are worth less than short term profits of their corporations or economic interests.

I am not a man of violence, but I agree with Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote: “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

Likewise I believe like General Ludwig Beck who died in the attempt to kill Hitler and seize control of Germany from the Nazi regime that those entrusted with high office must live up to it. Beck said:

“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here history will incriminate these leaders with bloodguilt if they do not act in accordance with their specialist political knowledge and conscience. Their soldierly obedience reaches its limit when their knowledge, their conscience, and their responsibility forbid carrying out an order.”

For me the testimony of both men is relevant today.

How can I be silent and retain any sense of morality today? My heart goes out to all the French, and their Colonials, and Foreign Legion Troops who died for an awful cause in Indochina, including those who fought for South Vietnam and lost everything by doing so, as well as the Americans sent their to prop up a regime that had little popular support, and was based on power religious and economic elites more than its own people.

Now we are faced with a pandemic that kills without discrimination. A pandemic that kills without remorse because it is not human, and which adepts itself to killing more people. This is especially true when human beings and their governments ignore or willingly break the basics of non pharmaceutical interventions, such as social distancing and face masks because they value their personal convenience over the life of others.


Lebanon - History

After the Vichy government assumed power in France in 1940, General Henri-Fernand Dentz was appointed high commissioner of Lebanon. This appointment led to the resignation of Emile Iddi on April 4, 1941. Five days later, Dentz appointed Alfred Naqqash as head of state. The Vichy government's control ended a few months later when its forces were unable to repel the advance of French and British troops into Lebanon and Syria. An armistice was signed in Acre on July 14, 1941.

After signing the Acre Armistice, General Charles de Gaulle visited Lebanon, officially ending Vichy control. Lebanese national leaders took the opportunity to ask de Gaulle to end the French Mandate and unconditionally recognize Lebanon's independence. As a result of national and international pressure, on November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux, delegate general under de Gaulle, proclaimed the independence of Lebanon in the name of his government. The United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, the Arab states, and certain Asian countries recognized this independence, and some of them exchanged ambassadors with Beirut. However, even though the French technically recognized Lebanon's independence, they continued to exercise authority.

General elections were held, and on September 21, 1943, the new Chamber of Deputies elected Bishara al Khuri as president. He appointed Riyad as Sulh as prime minister and asked him to form the first government of independent Lebanon. On November 8, 1943, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Constitution, abolishing the articles that referred to the Mandate and modifying those that specified the powers of the high commissioner, thus unilaterally ending the Mandate. The French authorities responded by arresting a number of prominent Lebanese politicians, including the president, the prime minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to the Castle of Rashayya. This action united the Christian and Muslim leaders in their determination to get rid of the French. France, finally yielding to mounting internal pressure and to the influence of Britain, the United States, and the Arab countries, released the prisoners at Rashayya on November 22, 1943 since then, this day has been celebrated as Independence Day.

The ending of the French Mandate left Lebanon a mixed legacy. When the Mandate began, Lebanon was still suffering from the religious conflicts of the 1860s and from World War I. The French authorities were concerned not only with maintaining control over the country but also with rebuilding the Lebanese economy and social systems. They repaired and enlarged the harbor of Beirut and developed a network of roads linking the major cities. They also began to develop a governmental structure that included new administrative and judicial systems and a new civil code. They improved the education system, agriculture, public health, and the standard of living. Concurrently, however, they linked the Lebanese currency to the depreciating French franc, tying the Lebanese economy to that of France. This action had a negative impact on Lebanon. Another negative effect of the Mandate was the place given to French as a language of instruction, a move that favored Christians at the expense of Muslims.

The foundations of the new Lebanese state were established in 1943 by an unwritten agreement between the two most prominent Christian and Muslim leaders, Khuri and Sulh. The contents of this agreement, later known as the National Pact or National Covenant (al Mithaq al Watani), were approved and supported by their followers. The National Pact laid down four principles. First, Lebanon was to be a completely independent state. The Christian communities were to cease identifying with the West in return, the Muslim communities were to protect the independence of Lebanon and prevent its merger with any Arab state. Second, although Lebanon is an Arab country with Arabic as its official language, it could not cut off its spiritual and intellectual ties with the West, which had helped it attain such a notable degree of progress. Third, Lebanon, as a member of the family of Arab states, should cooperate with the other Arab states, and in case of conflict among them, it should not side with one state against another. Fourth, public offices should be distributed proportionally among the recognized religious groups, but in technical positions preference should be given to competence without regard to confessional considerations. Moreover, the three top government positions should be distributed as follows: the president of the republic should be a Maronite the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, a Shia Muslim. The ratio of deputies was to be six Christians to five Muslims.

From the beginning, the balance provided for in the National Pact was fragile. Many observers believed that any serious internal or external pressure might threaten the stability of the Lebanese political system, as was to happen in 1975. Lebanon became a member of the League of Arab States (Arab League) on March 22, 1945. It also participated in the San Francisco Conference of the United Nations (UN) and became a member in 1945. On December 31, 1946, French troops were completely withdrawn from the country, with the signing of the Franco-Lebanese Treaty.

The history of Lebanon during the 1943-75 period was dominated by prominent family networks and patron-client relationships. Each sectarian community had its prominent family: the Khuris, Shamuns, Shihabs, Franjiyahs, and Jumayyils for the Maronites the Sulhs, Karamis, and Yafis for the Sunnis the Jumblatts, Yazbaks, and Arslans for the Druzes and the Asads and Hamadahs for the Shias. Notable events of this era included the expulsion of large numbers of Palestinian guerrillas from Jordan in late 1970 and 1971, as a result of severe clashes between the Jordanian army and the PLO, had serious repercussions for Lebanon, however. Many of the guerrillas entered Lebanon, seeing it as the most suitable base for launching raids against Israel. The guerrillas tended to ally themselves with existing leftist Lebanese organizations or to form various new leftist groups that received support from the Lebanese Muslim community and caused further splintering in the Lebanese body politic. Clashes between the Palestinians and Lebanese right-wing groups, as well as demonstrations on behalf of the guerrillas, occurred during the latter half of 1971. PLO head Arafat held discussions with leading Lebanese government figures, who sought to establish acceptable limits of guerrilla activity in Lebanon under the 1969 Cairo Agreement.

The October 1973 War overshadowed disagreements about the role of the guerrillas in Lebanon. Despite Lebanon's policy of noninvolvement, the war deeply affected the country's subsequent history. As the PLO's military influence in the south grew, so too did the disaffection of the Shia community that lived there, which was exposed to varying degrees of unsympathetic Lebanese control, indifferent or antipathetic PLO attitudes, and hostile Israeli actions. The Franjiyah government proved less and less able to deal with these rising tensions, and by the onset of the Civil War in April 1975, political fragmentation was accelerating.


About Yves Saint Laurent

“Love at first sight. An extraordinary meeting of minds. Yves was a big brother figure, we shared identical streaks of laid-back self-destructiveness and from moral and psychological points of view, we were absolutely identical. We were tremendous together, and bipolar, as it’s now known, always up and down. And of course, we were both anti-bourgeois and decadent to our cores.”

Betty & Yves Saint Laurent


HISTORY: How Lebanon gained its independence

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The Lebanese Independence Day, on November 22, 1943, is a national day celebrated in remembrance of the liberation from the French Mandate which was exercised over Lebanese soil for over 23 years.

When the Vichy government assumed power over French territory in 1940, General Henri Fernand Dentz was appointed as high commissioner of Lebanon. This new turning point led to the resignation of Lebanese president Emile Edde on April 4, 1941.

After 5 days, Dentz appointed Alfred Naccache for a presidency period that lasted only 3 months and ending with the surrender of the Vichy forces posted in Lebanon and Syria to the Free French and British troops.

On July 14, 1941, an armistice was signed in Acre ending the clashes between the two sides and opening the way for General Charles de Gaulle’s visit to Lebanon, thus ending Vichy’s control.

Having the opportunity to discuss matters of sovereignty and independence, the Lebanese national leaders asked de Gaulle to end the French Mandate and unconditionally recognize Lebanon’s independence.

After national and international pressure, General Georges Catroux, a delegate general under de Gaulle, proclaimed in the name of his government the Lebanese independence on November 26, 1941.

Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Arab states, the Soviet Union, and certain Asian countries recognized this independence, and some of them even exchanged ambassadors with Beirut. However this didn’t stop the French from exercising their authority.

On November 8, 1943, and after electing president Bechara El Khoury and appointing prime Minister Riad al-Solh, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Lebanese Constitution, which abolished the articles referring to the Mandate and modified the specified powers of the high commissioner, thus unilaterally ending the Mandate.

The French responded by arresting the president, the prime minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to an old citadel located in Rashaya. This incident, which unified the Christian and Muslim opinion towards the mandate, led to an international pressure demanding the Lebanese leaders’ release and massive street protests.

After the imprisonment of the Lebanese officials, the Lebanese MPs reunited in the house of the speaker of parliament, Sabri Hamadé, and assigned the two uncaught ministers Emir Majid Arslan and Habib Abou Chahla to carry out the functions of the government.

The two ministers then moved to Bechamoun and by so their government became known as the Government of Bechamoun. The Government was provided shelter and protection in the residence of Hussein El Halabi.

Finally, France yielded to the augmenting pressure of the Lebanese people, as well as the demand of numerous countries and released the prisoners from Rashaya in the morning of Monday November 22, 1943.

Since then, this day has been celebrated as the Lebanese Independence Day. This historic site of Lebanese Independence and residence of the Halabi’s continues to welcome tourists and visitors throughout the year to celebrate national pride.

In 1945, Lebanon became a member of the Arab League (March 22) and a member in the United Nations (UN San Francisco Conference of 1945). On December 31, 1946, French troops withdrew completely from Lebanon, with the signing of the Franco-Lebanese Treaty.

CLICK HERE for more coverage of Lebanon’s 71st Independence Day.

Content validated and reprinted via Wikimedia’s Creative Commons License.


Georges Catroux - History

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 brought Lebanon further problems, as Turkey allied itself with Germany and Austria Hungary. The Turkish government abolished Lebanon's semiautonomous status and appointed Jamal Pasha, then minister of the navy, as the commander in chief of the Turkish forces in Syria, with discretionary powers. Known for his harshness, he militarily occupied Lebanon and replaced the Armenian mutasarrif, Ohannes Pasha, with a Turk, Munif Pasha.

In February 1915, frustrated by his unsuccessful attack on the British forces protecting the Suez Canal, Jamal Pasha initiated a blockade of the entire eastern Mediterranean coast to prevent supplies from reaching his enemies and indirectly caused thousands of deaths from widespread famine and plagues. Lebanon suffered as much as, or more than, any other Ottoman province. The blockade deprived the country of its tourists and summer visitors, and remittances from relatives and friends were lost or delayed for months. The Turkish Army cut down trees for wood to fuel trains or for military purposes. In 1916 Turkish authorities publicly executed twenty-one Syrians and Lebanese in Damascus and Beirut, respectively, for alleged anti-Turkish activities. The date, May 6, is commemorated annually in both countries as Martyrs' Day, and the site in Beirut has come to be known as Martyrs' Square.

Relief came, however, in September 1918 when the British general Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Husayn of Mecca, moved into Palestine with British and Arab forces, thus opening the way for the occupation of Syria and Lebanon. At the San Remo Conference held in Italy in April 1920, the Allies gave France a mandate over Greater Syria. France then appointed General Henri Gouraud to implement the mandate provisions.

On September 1, 1920, General Gouraud proclaimed the establishment of Greater Lebanon with its present boundaries and with Beirut as its capital. The first Lebanese constitution was promulgated on May 23, 1926, and subsequently amended several times it was still in effect as of late 1987. Modeled after that of the French Third Republic, it provided for a unicameral parliament called the Chamber of Deputies, a president, and a Council of Ministers, or cabinet. The president was to be elected by the Chamber of Deputies for one six-year term and could not be reelected until a six-year period had elapsed deputies were to be popularly elected along confessional lines. The first and only complete census that had been held in Lebanon as of 1987 took place in 1932 and resulted in the custom of selecting major political officers according to the proportion of the principal sects in the population (see The Basis of Government, ch. 4). Thus, the president was to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shia Muslim. Theoretically, the Chamber of Deputies performed the legislative function, but in fact bills were prepared by the executive and submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, which passed them virtually without exception. Under the Constitution, the French high commissioner still exercised supreme power, an arrangement that initially brought objections from the Lebanese nationalists. Nevertheless, Charles Dabbas, a Greek Orthodox, was elected the first president of Lebanon three days after the adoption of the Constitution.

At the end of Dabbas's first term in 1932, Bishara al Khuri (also cited as Khoury) and Emile Iddi (also cited as Edde) competed for the office of president, thus dividing the Chamber of Deputies. To break the deadlock, some deputies suggested Shaykh Muhammad al Jisr, who was chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Muslim leader of Tripoli, as a compromise candidate. However, French high commissioner Henri Ponsot suspended the constitution on May 9, 1932, and extended the term of Dabbas for one year in this way he prevented the election of a Muslim as president. Dissatisfied with Ponsot's conduct, the French authorities replaced him with Comte Damien de Martel, who, on January 30, 1934, appointed Habib as Saad as president for a one-year term (later extended for an additional year).

Emile Iddi was elected president on January 30, 1936. A year later, he partially reestablished the Constitution of 1926 and proceeded to hold elections for the Chamber of Deputies. However, the Constitution was again suspended by the French high commissioner in September 1939, at the outbreak of World War II.

After the Vichy government assumed power in France in 1940, General Henri-Fernand Dentz was appointed high commissioner of Lebanon. This appointment led to the resignation of Emile Iddi on April 4, 1941. Five days later, Dentz appointed Alfred Naqqash (also given as Naccache or Naccash) as head of state. The Vichy government's control ended a few months later when its forces were unable to repel the advance of French and British troops into Lebanon and Syria. An armistice was signed in Acre on July 14, 1941.

After signing the Acre Armistice, General Charles de Gaulle visited Lebanon, officially ending Vichy control. Lebanese national leaders took the opportunity to ask de Gaulle to end the French Mandate and unconditionally recognize Lebanon's independence. As a result of national and international pressure, on November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux, delegate general under de Gaulle, proclaimed the independence of Lebanon in the name of his government. The United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, the Arab states, and certain Asian countries recognized this independence, and some of them exchanged ambassadors with Beirut. However, even though the French technically recognized Lebanon's independence, they continued to exercise authority.

General elections were held, and on September 21, 1943, the new Chamber of Deputies elected Bishara al Khuri as president. He appointed Riyad as Sulh (also cited as Solh) as prime minister and asked him to form the first government of independent Lebanon. On November 8, 1943, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Constitution, abolishing the articles that referred to the Mandate and modifying those that specified the powers of the high commissioner, thus unilaterally ending the Mandate. The French authorities responded by arresting a number of prominent Lebanese politicians, including the president, the prime minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to the Castle of Rashayya (located about sixty-five kilometers east of Sidon). This action united the Christian and Muslim leaders in their determination to get rid of the French. France, finally yielding to mounting internal pressure and to the influence of Britain, the United States, and the Arab countries, released the prisoners at Rashayya on November 22, 1943 since then, this day has been celebrated as Independence Day.

The ending of the French Mandate left Lebanon a mixed legacy. When the Mandate began, Lebanon was still suffering from the religious conflicts of the 1860s and from World War I. The French authorities were concerned not only with maintaining control over the country but also with rebuilding the Lebanese economy and social systems. They repaired and enlarged the harbor of Beirut and developed a network of roads linking the major cities. They also began to develop a governmental structure that included new administrative and judicial systems and a new civil code. They improved the education system, agriculture, public health, and the standard of living. Concurrently, however, they linked the Lebanese currency to the depreciating French franc, tying the Lebanese economy to that of France. This action had a negative impact on Lebanon. Another negative effect of the Mandate was the place given to French as a language of instruction, a move that favored Christians at the expense of Muslims.

The foundations of the new Lebanese state were established in 1943 by an unwritten agreement between the two most prominent Christian and Muslim leaders, Khuri and Sulh. The contents of this agreement, later known as the National Pact or National Covenant (al Mithaq al Watani), were approved and supported by their followers.

The National Pact laid down four principles. First, Lebanon was to be a completely independent state. The Christian communities were to cease identifying with the West in return, the Muslim communities were to protect the independence of Lebanon and prevent its merger with any Arab state. Second, although Lebanon is an Arab country with Arabic as its official language, it could not cut off its spiritual and intellectual ties with the West, which had helped it attain such a notable degree of progress. Third, Lebanon, as a member of the family of Arab states, should cooperate with the other Arab states, and in case of conflict among them, it should not side with one state against another. Fourth, public offices should be distributed proportionally among the recognized religious groups, but in technical positions preference should be given to competence without regard to confessional considerations. Moreover, the three top government positions should be distributed as follows: the president of the republic should be a Maronite the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, a Shia Muslim. The ratio of deputies was to be six Christians to five Muslims.

From the beginning, the balance provided for in the National Pact was fragile. Many observers believed that any serious internal or external pressure might threaten the stability of the Lebanese political system, as was to happen in 1975.

Lebanon became a member of the League of Arab States (Arab League) on March 22, 1945. It also participated in the San Francisco Conference of the United Nations (UN) and became a member in 1945. On December 31, 1946, French troops were completely withdrawn from the country, with the signing of the Franco-Lebanese Treaty.

At the end of World War I, the Allied forces put Lebanon under French military occupation.

In 1923, the League of Nations (forerunner to the United Nations) formally gave Lebanon and Syria to France. The Maronite Christians, pro-French by tradition, welcomed this development. During the next 20 years, while France ruled, the Maronites were favored.

However, the redefinition of Lebanon changed the demographic makeup of the country. Muslims and Christians were about equally divided, and many residents didn't want to be ruled by France or to be independent. They wanted to be part of a larger Syrian or Arab country.

To ease tensions, the constitution provided that the president would normally be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the chamber a Shi`ite Muslim.

Under French rule, education, public utilities and communication improved. Beirut prospered as a trade center. As the middle class of Beirut grew, so did a frail sense of common national interest and a desire for more independence.

But France was having troubles at home. Its neighbor Germany had slipped into the rule of the Nazis. When France fell to Germany in 1940 during World War II, British and Free French tropps occupied Lebanon. These troops proclaimed Lebanon and Syria independent, but because their own status was so precarious, the Free French continued to occupy Lebanon.

In 1943, they allowed elections to take place. Under the new president, the legislature adopted changes in the constitution that did away with French influence. The French objected. On Nov. 11, 1943, the French arrested almost the entire Lebanese government, leading to war. The British intervened, and the French restored the government and transferred power to it.

In 1945, after more insurrection and as World War II reached its climax, the British and French began withdrawing from Lebanon. By 1946, the withdrawal was complete, and Lebanon became officially independent.

Source: Federal Research Division - Library of Congress (Edited by Thomas Collelo, December 1987)


12 - Indochina at war

As the Sino-Japanese War raged just over the northern border and as war in Europe shifted from threat to reality, a fresh upsurge of religious excitement spread in western Cochinchina. In July of 1939, in a village near the Seven Mountains near the Khmer border, a sickly but charismatic young man named Huynh Phu So (1919–1947) claimed to be a Buddha and attracted large numbers of followers. By the summer of 1940, the resulting uproar prompted the French to take him into custody. After nearly a year of confinement in a Cholon psychiatric hospital, he was allowed to return to the countryside under house arrest. In 1942, the Japanese, who had meanwhile entered southern Indochina, gained possession of him and thereafter cultivated his following as a pro-Japanese force. This movement came to be known by the name of Huynh Phu So’s home village, Hoa Hao. The Hoa Hao religion arose from the millenarian traditions of western Cochinchina, but instead of being an ephemeral movement as previous millenarian episodes had been, it gained coherence in the peculiar conditions of the Franco-Japanese wartime relationship.

The French Popular Front faded away during the course of 1938 and was replaced by a more conservative government that began to prepare for war. In August 1939, General George Catroux (1877–1969), the commander of French military forces in Indochina, replaced Brévié as governor general. Catroux had served in Indochina prior to the First World War and more recently had held colonial commands in Morocco, Algeria, and Syria. Within weeks of his appointment, the Indochina Communist Party was deprived of its legal status. Catroux focused on military preparations and enforced strict internal security, arresting many communists and other anti-colonial activists and confiscating their property.


Watch the video: Kid Color LEARN FUN Spiderman Cartoon on Motor Bikes Police Cars Chasing And Avengers for Children (May 2022).


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