March 2, 1975 | Air Algerie Bombings in France

On this day in 1975 bombs went off outside Air Algerie offices in France, causing serious damage. The incident was claimed by the Charles Martel Group.

History, real or imagined, is a powerful motivator for terrorism.

FRANCE — We all have creation or founding myths. When events took place a long time ago, in an era of poor record keeping, they are commemorated through images or acts that may or may not be an accurate reflection of what actually happened. Those creating the accounts are doing so to elicit emotions such as pride and patriotism, and if the truth gets in the way, well we will just set it aside, shall we?

A good example may be the American story about George Washington and the cherry tree. When a young future president was confronted by his father over a damaged tree he allegedly said:  “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.” What a great tale of honesty and a wonderful illustration of how the US’ first president possessed good values.

Except that it never happened.

We want our histories to do be inspiring. We want to believe in superheroes – men and women who rose to amazing heights and did amazing things. We want to emulate these people and have the courage to do what they did.

Image result for islamic empire 8th century
(Photo: Brewminate)

Here is another example

In the late 7th and early 8th centuries a new empire threatened much of the known (known in a Eurocentric sense) world: the Islamic Empire. Bursting out of its Arabian Peninsula cradle it spread north, west and east and conquered just about everything and everyone in its path. Starting in 711 CE it entered what is now Spain and had occupied most of in a few decades. It then turned its attention to Gaul (now France) and engaged a local army in the famous battle of Tours in 732 CE.

Luckily, the ‘French’ side was led by a guy with a great name: Charles the Hammer (Charles Martel): would that not make a cool WWE name! ‘Hammer’ and his men fought back the Muslims and ‘saved’ France from occupation by the new faith.

Not bad for the illegitimate son of Pippin II of Herstal (nothing to do with the hobbit of the same name. This battle and Martel have gone down in history as the one force capable of holding back the ‘Saracen wave’, ignoring the truth that there were many such battles over the better part of a millennium.

Still, if you see Charles as a quintessential French superman, what better way to copy him?

Battle of Poitiers
Chuck the Hammer with his battleaxe at Tours (Photo: Public Domain)

1975 Air Algerie Bombings in France

On this day in 1975 bombs went off outside two Air Algerie offices in Toulouse and Lyons, causing some damage but not killing or injuring anyone. The incident was claimed by the Charles Martel Group, which was active in the 1970s and 1980s. It formed after France had granted Algeria its independence, following a very brutal anti-colonial war (you really should watch the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers) and conducted a string of terror attacks against Algerians and citizens of North African descent in France.

In other words, this far right group was angry at the loss of France’s overseas territories and wanted to go back to the way things were. What better method than to go to battle like Charles Martel did?

In this the French gang was no different than other terrorist groups, whether these are Islamist, far right, far left or whatever. They all cling to an imagined history which they want to re-embrace. Even if the accuracy is a bit off.

As they say, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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