The recent terrorist attack in Paris which killed more than a hundred and left hundreds more wounded, has been widely descibed in the American news media as being without historical precedent. Jake Tapper, the host of CNN's Sunday morning news program State of the Union, told viewers and a high official of the Obama administration State Department that France had seen nothing like this since the days of Nazi occupation in the Second World War.
In fact, during the Algerian War (1954-1962) when indigenous Algerians sought independence from the colonial French government, the war came to France in a big way.
During the so-called Cafe Wars, a series of bombings, drive-by shootings, and other violence targeting cafe patrons, took the lives of nearly 4,000 and wounded more than 6,000 according to official French government statistics, which may understate the casualties; figures which dwarf those of the recent terrorist attack.
According to one contemporary news source, an article originally appearing in London Magazine in December 1961, written by a correspondent living in Paris at the time:
"Living in Paris one can hardly fail to be conscious of the Algerian War. Not only are the newspapers full of it, but the outrages of the Secret Army Organization — whose sign like that of the outlawed neo-Fascist party Jeune Nation is a Celtic Cross, or a cross within a circle — are now so numerous and widespread that most Parisians have their own plastic explosion stories, just as during the Blitz most Londoners had their own bomb stories. Attacks by members of the Algerian National Liberation Front are now fewer, but much more lethal, and much more rigorously investigated by the police."
". . .There have been running fights between the OS and police cars in many districts, including one in the fashionable avenue de l’Opéra. There have been even more numerous attacks on Paris police stations...the raiders drive past a station with guns blazing and attempt to throw grenades through the door; then they throw more grenades into the street to discourage pursuit."
That civilians formed the bulk of casualties in such attacks, regardless of who was targeted, cannot be doubted.
But this is only the beginning of the failure to learn from history. Predictably, the American television news media is leading calls for vastly increased military involvement in Syria and Iraq by the Western powers, to be led (of course) by the United States.
This is not limited to right-wing outlets like FOX News. The drumbeat of war is being beaten even in the mainstream. One CNN news anchor, and the guest he interviewed, explicitly called for Raqqa, the Syrian city which functions as the de facto capital of Islamic State, to be "leveled" by air raids, blithely dismissing the prospect of a city's worth of mostly civilian casualties with the observation that Paris demonstrates "we have our own collateral damage problem". Terrorism has more than one face.
France had "boots on the ground" in Algeria: roughly 400,000 troops plus perhaps another 200,000 local volunteer militiamen. The French did not play softball. Charles de Gaulle was drafted by the French Parliament as a no-nonsense tough-guy who could direct a military solution. French troops and special forces killed as indiscriminately as the Algerian guerillas and employed torture and threats against the families of guerrillas (the carrying out of which was routine). The French were so intent on a military solution that they even created a fake guerrilla group to carry out false-flag terrorist attacks for the specific purpose of discouraging political negotiations at key moments.
Yet, a year and a half after taking over the war effort, the quintessential military man, General de Gaulle, was calling for Algerian self-rule and the withdrawal of French troops.
This was a substantially larger and more fearsome military effort than the U.S. led coalition which invaded and occupied Iraq during the last decade, a nine year war that turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgents not in response to the mythical "surge" of U.S. forces (which was paltry by military standards and left total force numbers woefully inadequate at roughly 180,000 troops), but rather the Anbar Awakening which seduced local Sunni tribal leaders who had been supporting the insurgency into instead supporting the American led coalition.