Délinquance: Cachez ces chiffres que je ne saurai voir (No crime figures please, we’re French)

28 février, 2013
Vos questions vont singulièrement vous compliquer l’existence. Une meute de persécuteurs polyvalents, d’antifascistes oniriques, de suffragettes de ligues de vertu, va vous tomber sur le poil. Xavier Raufer (criminologue)
Ce livre est parfaitement scandaleux. C’est le dernier avatar du lobby sécuritaire. C’est du marketing commercial pour faire peur aux gens car ces chiffres étaient connus depuis longtemps. Il finit en conclusion par dire que la violence, c’est la faute des immigrés. Bref, du sous-journalisme au service du tout sécuritaire. Laurent Mucchielli (auteur de l’ « Invention de la violence »)
L’immense majorité des journalistes (94% selon une enquête de Marianne) et des étudiants en journalisme (jusqu’à 100% d’entre eux dans certaines écoles) se revendiquent de la gauche et de l’extrême gauche. Ils ont un logiciel idéologique dans la tête, qui n’est pas compatible avec le devoir d’informer. Par réflexe, ils nient la réalité, l’édulcorent, la minimisent, éventuellement méprisent, culpabilisent ou insultent ceux qui osent la montrer du doigt. Entre grands médias, c’est une compétition à celui qui ira le plus loin dans l’excuse et la compréhension du criminel. Les gens le savent, donc ils ne lisent plus cette presse-là, qui est maintenue en vie par des subventions publiques plus ou moins déguisées, pour donner l’illusion qu’une information indépendante existe encore et que notre démocratie se porte bien. Tout ça est un théâtre et même, hélas, une tragédie(…) La plupart des grands médias se taisent, et nous font parfois savoir, comme La Croix ou Le Parisien, qu’ils le font pour des raisons idéologiques. Or des milliers de victimes témoignent que l’insécurité n’est pas une idéologie. (…) L’hétérogénéité d’une nation est non seulement un facteur de criminalité, mais aussi un facteur d’incivisme, de précarité, d’effondrement du “capital social”, comme l’a démontré le célèbre sociologue – de gauche – Robert Putnam, duquel je parle longuement dans La France orange mécanique. C’est un constat : les pays hétérogènes sont plus violents que les pays homogènes. Il n’est pas question de réécrire cette réalité sous prétexte qu’elle pousserait des gens à se radicaliser. Aujourd’hui, dans notre pays, des milliers de criminels radicaux agressent, violent et tuent d’honnêtes gens sans que ça n’intéresse personne. Ceux qui fuient cette réalité en brandissant le fantasme de l’extrême droite se font les complices de ces criminels. Mais ils n’ont plus le choix : leur idéologie est boiteuse, et ce fantasme de l’extrême droite est leur seule béquille. (…) Je note que cette radicalisation est consubstantielle aux populations musulmanes installées en Europe. Elle est un accélérateur identitaire de la tribalisation de certaines communautés. (…) Leur morale est celle de leur groupe, hiérarchisé selon des règles qui ne sont pas les nôtres. C’est une loi anthropologique : tuer un membre de son groupe est interdit, tuer un étranger est admis, parfois encouragé. En témoigne le soutien sans faille des “proches” de “jeunes” interpellés par la police, quoi qu’ils aient fait. (…) Je constate que les villes aux populations homogènes, qui comportent leur lot d’habitants pauvres, sont très peu criminelles. Le Paris du début du XXe siècle ou même du XIXe était particulièrement pauvre et surpeuplé. Pourtant, il était beaucoup moins violent qu’il ne l’est depuis les années 60. La ville ne fait pas le criminel, disons qu’elle lui sert de refuge. Ce qui fait le criminel, c’est la sous-adaptation culturelle, la tribalisation du pays, le laxisme judiciaire, la morale de l’excuse. (…) Entre la paperasse, la politique du chiffre, la barbarie de la rue, les consignes pour ne pas “provoquer”, le mépris médiatique, la colère populaire, les policiers, désabusés, font ce qu’ils peuvent, avec courage et efficacité. En revanche, la justice ne suit plus depuis longtemps. 53 000 places de prison, 67 000 détenus. 82 000 peines non exécutées chaque année, faute de place. Construire des prisons ? “Ça coûte cher”, nous explique-t-on sans trembler du côté du syndicat de la magistrature. Pas un seul gouvernement n’a eu le courage de mettre au pas son administration pour construire des prisons. Pourquoi ? Parce que construire des prisons serait reconnaître l’explosion de la criminalité depuis l’ordonnance de 1945 et la généralisation du laxisme judiciaire. Idéologiquement, les progressistes ne peuvent pas admettre l’échec de leurs utopies. Ils préfèrent couler à la barre du navire. Ce qu’ils décident n’a rien à voir avec la réalité empirique, ce sont des “avancées” morales sur lesquelles personne ne doit jamais revenir. C’est un comportement suicidaire. (…) Dans tous les pays d’Europe, la criminalité a explosé à partir des années 1950, avec la mondialisation, l’immigration et la fin de la justice strictement punitive. Ce n’est pas une fatalité : les pays qui ont abandonné le laxisme judiciaire, comme les États-Unis, ont obtenu d’excellents résultats en matière de lutte contre la criminalité. Aujourd’hui, la criminalité des États-Unis est proportionnellement inférieure à celle de la France. Laurent Obertone

 Cachez ces chiffres que je ne saurai voir !

Chiffres de la délinquance trois fois plus élevé que ceux du ministère de l’Intérieur, 53 000 places de prison pour 67 000 détenus, 82 000 peines non exécutées chaque année faute de place …

A l’heure où, entre manque chronique de places de prison et arrivée massive d’immigrés irréguliers comme laxisme judiciaire et relativisme culturel, la fracture sécuritaire ne cesse de s’aggraver entre les belles âmes protégées des beaux quartiers et rien de moins que la majorité de la population …

Pendant qu’entre propositions de dépénalisation du cannabis (du ministre de l’Education, s’il vous plait!) et d’élections pour les étrangers comme de mariage et bientôt gestation pour tous, un gouvernement d’irresponsables enfonce chaque jour un peu plus le pays dans le chômage et les déficits …

Et que, pour ne prendre qu’un exemple ô combien symptomatique, nos concitoyens juifs en sont depuis des années réduits à pratiquer leur religion sous protection policière …

Retour, dans Causeur, avec l’auteur (sous pseudonyme ?) de « La France Orange mécanique »

Sur ces chiffres que personne ne veut voir …

La criminalité a explosé

Entretien avec Laurent Obertone, auteur de La France Orange mécanique

Causeur

08 février 2013

Dans La France Orange Mécanique (Ring éditions), Laurent Obertone décrit « l’ensauvagement d’une nation » et montre une France où l’ultra-violence progresse sans rencontrer d’autre opposition qu’une culture de l’excuse institutionnalisée. Rencontre avec un journaliste brise-tabous, sans œillères ni langue de bois.

Votre essai s’appuie sur des chiffres différents de ceux du ministère de l’Intérieur. En quoi sont-ils plus fiables que les statistiques officielles ?

En France, toutes les 24 heures, on compte 13 000 vols, 2 000 agressions et 200 viols. Ces chiffres sont ceux de l’Office national de la délinquance et des réponses pénales (ONDRP), institut public qui réalise depuis plusieurs années des enquêtes de victimisation auprès de 17 000 personnes. Ces enquêtes jugées fiables par les criminologues (et désormais par Manuel Valls) recensent 12 millions de crimes et délits, soit trois fois plus que les chiffres avancés par le ministère de l’Intérieur, basés uniquement sur les plaintes, et sujets à quantité de manipulations. L’enquête de l’ONDRP y échappe, et échappe donc aux indécentes petites querelles politiciennes autour d’oscillations infimes d’un taux de criminalité qui a explosé depuis les années 60, et qu’aucune politique n’a su ou voulu contenir.

Vous semblez nourrir une très mauvaise opinion des médias français. Sont-ils vraiment tous aveugles et angéliques face à l’insécurité ?

L’immense majorité des journalistes (94% selon une enquête de Marianne) et des étudiants en journalisme (jusqu’à 100% d’entre eux dans certaines écoles) se revendiquent de la gauche et de l’extrême gauche. Ils ont un logiciel idéologique dans la tête, qui n’est pas compatible avec le devoir d’informer. Par réflexe, ils nient la réalité, l’édulcorent, la minimisent, éventuellement méprisent, culpabilisent ou insultent ceux qui osent la montrer du doigt. Entre grands médias, c’est une compétition à celui qui ira le plus loin dans l’excuse et la compréhension du criminel. Les gens le savent, donc ils ne lisent plus cette presse-là, qui est maintenue en vie par des subventions publiques plus ou moins déguisées, pour donner l’illusion qu’une information indépendante existe encore et que notre démocratie se porte bien. Tout ça est un théâtre et même, hélas, une tragédie.

Mais la presse parle de votre livre…

Une certaine presse. Valeurs actuelles, Atlantico, Éric Brunet, Éric Zemmour… La plupart des grands médias se taisent, et nous font parfois savoir, comme La Croix ou Le Parisien, qu’ils le font pour des raisons idéologiques. Or des milliers de victimes témoignent que l’insécurité n’est pas une idéologie.

En pointant le multiculturalisme comme source de la délinquance, ne redoutez-vous pas de radicaliser certaines personnes, soit vers l’extrême droite soit vers un fanatisme de type salafiste ?

L’hétérogénéité d’une nation est non seulement un facteur de criminalité, mais aussi un facteur d’incivisme, de précarité, d’effondrement du “capital social”, comme l’a démontré le célèbre sociologue – de gauche – Robert Putnam, duquel je parle longuement dans La France orange mécanique. C’est un constat : les pays hétérogènes sont plus violents que les pays homogènes. Il n’est pas question de réécrire cette réalité sous prétexte qu’elle pousserait des gens à se radicaliser. Aujourd’hui, dans notre pays, des milliers de criminels radicaux agressent, violent et tuent d’honnêtes gens sans que ça n’intéresse personne. Ceux qui fuient cette réalité en brandissant le fantasme de l’extrême droite se font les complices de ces criminels. Mais ils n’ont plus le choix : leur idéologie est boiteuse, et ce fantasme de l’extrême droite est leur seule béquille.

Quid de la dérive islamiste ?

Je note que cette radicalisation est consubstantielle aux populations musulmanes installées en Europe. Elle est un accélérateur identitaire de la tribalisation de certaines communautés.

À vous lire, certains délinquants sont parfaitement de bonne foi lorsqu’ils pensent ne transgresser aucun interdit en commettant des délits ou des viols…

En effet. Leur morale est celle de leur groupe, hiérarchisé selon des règles qui ne sont pas les nôtres. C’est une loi anthropologique : tuer un membre de son groupe est interdit, tuer un étranger est admis, parfois encouragé. En témoigne le soutien sans faille des “proches” de “jeunes” interpellés par la police, quoi qu’ils aient fait.

Vous expliquez que, contrairement à une idée bien ancrée, la délinquance et la criminalité ne sont pas liées à des facteurs économiques. Mais peut-on sérieusement comparer des départements ruraux, certes classés parmi les plus pauvres et des zones hyper urbanisées comme le 93?

Je constate que les villes aux populations homogènes, qui comportent leur lot d’habitants pauvres, sont très peu criminelles. Le Paris du début du XXe siècle ou même du XIXe était particulièrement pauvre et surpeuplé. Pourtant, il était beaucoup moins violent qu’il ne l’est depuis les années 60. La ville ne fait pas le criminel, disons qu’elle lui sert de refuge. Ce qui fait le criminel, c’est la sous-adaptation culturelle, la tribalisation du pays, le laxisme judiciaire, la morale de l’excuse.

D’où vient la quasi-impunité que vous dénoncez ? De la police ou de la justice?

Entre la paperasse, la politique du chiffre, la barbarie de la rue, les consignes pour ne pas “provoquer”, le mépris médiatique, la colère populaire, les policiers, désabusés, font ce qu’ils peuvent, avec courage et efficacité. En revanche, la justice ne suit plus depuis longtemps. 53 000 places de prison, 67 000 détenus. 82 000 peines non exécutées chaque année, faute de place. Construire des prisons ? “Ça coûte cher”, nous explique-t-on sans trembler du côté du syndicat de la magistrature. Pas un seul gouvernement n’a eu le courage de mettre au pas son administration pour construire des prisons. Pourquoi ? Parce que construire des prisons serait reconnaître l’explosion de la criminalité depuis l’ordonnance de 1945 et la généralisation du laxisme judiciaire. Idéologiquement, les progressistes ne peuvent pas admettre l’échec de leurs utopies. Ils préfèrent couler à la barre du navire. Ce qu’ils décident n’a rien à voir avec la réalité empirique, ce sont des “avancées” morales sur lesquelles personne ne doit jamais revenir. C’est un comportement suicidaire.

Ce n’est donc pas de la responsabilité de Christiane Taubira, l’actuelle Garde des Sceaux ?

Taubira est autant responsable de la situation que ses prédécesseurs, elle a l’immense mérite de passer pour ce qu’elle est.

Plus que le niveau de sécurité, n’est-ce pas notre seuil de tolérance face à la criminalité et à la délinquance qui a fléchi au cours des dernières décennies ?

Si les médias tentaient d’amplifier ce phénomène, ils commenceraient sans doute par ne plus parler de “sentiment”, de “jeunes”, ou “d’incivilités”. Dans La France orange mécanique, je montre que la criminalité française était insignifiante des années 1830 aux années 1950. Dans tous les pays d’Europe, la criminalité a explosé à partir des années 1950, avec la mondialisation, l’immigration et la fin de la justice strictement punitive. Ce n’est pas une fatalité : les pays qui ont abandonné le laxisme judiciaire, comme les États-Unis, ont obtenu d’excellents résultats en matière de lutte contre la criminalité. Aujourd’hui, la criminalité des États-Unis est proportionnellement inférieure à celle de la France.

Votre constat est effrayant, mais quelles solutions préconisez-vous ?

Aucune, ce n’est pas mon rôle. Je suis un témoin, je pose un constat. Constat de faillite judiciaire, de faillite du multiculturalisme, de faillite de la morale progressiste. Avant de s’attaquer à la réalité, il faut cesser de l’ignorer. C’est tout le thème de mon livre.

Laurent Obertone, La France orange mécanique (Ring éditions).

Voir aussi:

« France Orange mécanique » : omerta à tous les étages…

André Bercoff

Ecrivain, journaliste.

Il fut notamment journaliste à l’Express, directeur de la rédaction de France-Soir et directeur littéraire dans plusieurs maisons d’édition dont Belfond et Robert Laffont. Auteur d’une quarantaine de livres.

Voici un drôle d’OINI (objet imprimé non identifié). Pas normal. Pas formaté. Loin de la juste ligne du camp du Bien, celui de la Morale et des Droits de certains Hommes à disposer des autres. Pis : il les combat, les décrypte, les dénude. Si l’on considère « La France orange mécanique » du jeune journaliste Laurent Obertone du point de vue de l’intelligentsia bobocratique, la messe est dite : cet infâme torchon se situe à la droite de Le Pen, stigmatise des minorités aussi visibles que victimes, et contribue à la division des Français mille fois plus que les honorables causes du mariage gay et du droit de vote des étrangers. Laurent Obertone serait, au mieux, un réac identitaire, plus vraisemblablement un néonazi qui ne s’ignore pas. Fermez le ban. Omerta à tous les étages.

Il se trouve que l’auteur a fait tout simplement un travail de journaliste. Plus précisément de documentaliste. Il a recensé, en feuilletant pendant des mois la presse locale et régionale de ce cher et doux pays – presse qu’on ne cite pratiquement jamais – et y a relevé les faits de violence, d’incivilité, d’agression, de viol – faits que l’on baptise si pudiquement « divers » – et autres bonnes actions qui se répandent comme une traînée de poudre dans la France de ce début de XXIe siècle. Les chiffres parlent : toutes les 24 heures, 13 000 vols, 2 000 agressions, 200 viols. Excusez du peu. Ces chiffres sont connus mais l’un des apports d’Obertone est qu’il reproduit, en citant à chaque fois ses sources, le détail de ces « petits » crimes au quotidien. De ce fait, il rappelle la souffrance infinie de cette population que les grands médias ignorent quand elles ne viennent pas du Mexique ou d’ailleurs : les victimes. Celles qui n’ont rien demandé, qui passaient par là, qui ne voulaient de mal à personne, en un mot innocentes, et qui se font massacrer pour un regard, une cigarette refusée, un portable ou, si elles sont femmes, violer dans un train ou sous une porte cochère, devant des témoins aussi muets que passifs. Quand on vit, soit dans des beaux quartiers, soit dans des villes protégées, quand on est loin du chaos qui, lui, a bien réussi son intégration, on se dit que l’auteur exagère, mais les descriptions sont là et elles sont accablantes.

Mais le livre va évidemment plus loin. Il analyse le pourquoi de cette violence, pointe là aussi le poids de certaines communautés dans les prisons, la perte absolue des repères et des valeurs qui transforment des individus en tribus qui n’ont d’autres objectifs que défendre leurs territoires pour y exercer leurs trafics et leurs tournantes et pour qui le vivre ensemble (c’est-à-dire, avec les autres citoyens) ne veut strictement rien dire. De ces semeurs de haine, Obertone montre la magnifique complicité, voire l’appui des fabricants d’excuses : les moralistes des médias et de la politique, les experts, journalistes, juges, universitaires, qui n’ont de cesse d’expliquer la violence uniquement par l’économie et le social, la ghettoïsation et l’appauvrissement, alors que, si l’on regarde, comme le fait l’auteur, les statistiques, les départements les plus pauvres de France sont ceux où il y a le moins d’agressions, et surtout l’évidence : il y a huit millions de pauvres en France. Je ne sache pas qu’il y ait huit millions d’agresseurs actifs. Évidence trop aveuglante pour nos autruches assermentées.

Mais l’ouvrage pointe aussi du doigt la formidable lobotomisation des victimes elles-mêmes, devenues pratiquement consentantes, soit par peur de représailles et on les comprend ; soit – et c’est là où le bât blesse – pour ne pas « amalgamer », stigmatiser, etc. Elles ont dans certains cas – heureusement, il y a des exceptions – tellement intégré le fait qu’elles appartiennent à la frange « souchienne », colonialiste, petite bourgeoise, coupable, qu’elles pardonnent à l’avance à leurs bourreaux. Mieux : elles lui trouvent des excuses. L’exemple est frappant (c’est le cas de le dire) d’une agression dans un Noctilien parisien en décembre 2008. La caméra posée dans le bus a filmé un jeune homme de 19 ans violemment tabassé pendant un quart d’heure par d’autres jeunes encapuchonnés. Quelques mois plus tard, la vidéo circule sur Internet et la victime, retrouvée par Le Figaro, déclare : « La vidéo de mon agression apparaît comme très stéréotypée car, ce soir-là, je suis habillé de façon bourgeoise et je suis face à quatre jeunes qui faisaient beaucoup de bruit. En aucun cas, je ne veux passer pour l’incarnation d’une certaine image sociale qui aurait été prise à parti par des étrangers. Je ne l’ai pas ressenti comme cela… Il y a eu un grave amalgame entre la réalité de cette scène et sa représentation. Cette vidéo a circulé sur des sites extrémistes et a été exploitée par des politiques. Or, je ne veux pas être instrumentalisé. » Cette personne était à l’époque étudiant à Sciences Po. L’un de ses professeurs, Olivier Duhamel, a félicité son jeune étudiant pour sa réaction exemplaire. À ce niveau, cela devient beau comme l’antique.

On peut certes reprocher à « La France orange mécanique », des lourdeurs, des répétitions, et un éloge certain de l’agressivité considérée comme une vertu cardinale qui peut, elle aussi, donner lieu à de sacrés débordements. Il n’empêche : la réalité que décrit Obertone a été – et est encore – tellement occultée par la pensée et les médias dominants, que cette piqûre d’éveil mérite largement d’être connue. Et encouragée.

André Bercoff, le 31 janvier 2013

Voir également:

Orange mécanique : le livre choc qui donne (enfin) à voir la délinquance telle qu’elle est

Dans « La France Orange Mécanique », Laurent Obertone ose s’intéresser aux deux violences faites à la société d’aujourd’hui : la délinquante et la médiatique.

Pierre Cormary

Atlantico

« On appelle ça une victime. En un sens, docteur, je trouve ça peut-être plus répugnant à voir que le coupable. »

(Le personnage du maire dans Monsieur Ouine de Bernanos.)

Sur ce livre choc qui en défrisera plus d’un, et, comme le remarque malicieusement Xavier Raufer dans sa préface, fera passer son auteur d’abord comme un falsificateur indigne doublé d’un répressif tout azimut à la solde du Front National (et sans lire ce que celui-ci dit vraiment du FN et la façon dont il lui règle son compte), puis, une fois qu’on aura vérifié la véracité hallucinante de ses informations, comme un défonceur de portes ouvertes qui n’a rien inventé et se contente d’accumuler la liste des horreurs pour semer la panique dans les foyers, enfin, quand tout aura été digéré, repensé, reconnu, pour un vrai journaliste qui a fait son boulot et osé, le salaud, nous parler de cette chose répugnante qui s’appelle « le réel », on pourra dire cinq choses.

5. La France Orange mécanique est avant tout un livre d’informations. Un document incroyablement fourni sur tout ce qui se passe depuis vingt ans au pays des Droits de l’Homme en matière de délinquance et de criminalité. Un recensement accablant, quasi surréaliste, où il apparaît, d’après l’ « office national d’observation de la délinquance et des réponses pénales » (l’ONDRP), qu’il y a en France chaque jour près de 6000 atteintes aux bien, 1300 atteintes à l’intégrité physique, 1000 escroqueries économiques et infractions financières, 470 véhicules détruits ou dégradés, 330 violences physiques crapuleuses, 100 incendies volontaires de biens privés. Pire, qu’on compte 200 viols toutes les 24 heures – et un nombre impressionnant de violeurs rejetés dans la nature.

De ce triste livre des records, on apprendra aussi comment toutes les formes de délinquance ont explosé, à commencer par celle des mineurs (il n’est plus rare de voir des assassins de quinze au treize ans) et celle des filles (le taux d’adolescentes mises en cause entre 1996 et 2009 a connu une augmentation de 113 %). Facile de convaincre par des listes, rétorqueront les « sceptiques », ces gens à qui il n’est jamais rien arrivé et qui prennent toujours de haut les plaintes de ceux à qui il est arrivé quelque chose. Le réel est racoleur, c’est bien connu. Et il a bien souvent le mauvais goût d’être démocratique et égalitaire : on peut être un ado et violer une octogénaire comme en juin 2012 à Marseille (20 minutes, 16/06/12) comme on peut être un septuagénaire et, quelques jours plus tard, séquestrer, filmer et violer une jeune femme à Lessard-le-National (Le journal de Saône-et-Loire, 30/06/12). Sans oublier ces cas d’école qui seraient comiques s’il n’étaient pas vrais, comme cet homme jugé en novembre 2012 à Saint Nazaire pour avoir tué sa femme enceinte de 33 coups de couteau, parce qu’elle voulait appeler leur bébé « Yanis » et lui préférait « Gianni » (Ouest-France, 09/11/12).

4. Bien entendu, il ne manquera pas d’âmes sensibles pour stigmatiser la violence intrinsèque de ce livre conçu lui-même, avec son titre spectaculaire et sa couverture orange brutale, comme un compte à rebours façon Irréversible de Gaspard Noé (les chapitres allant de 10 à un hypothétique quoique « explosif » zéro) ou même comme une thérapie de choc destinée à excéder le lecteur en le saturant d’informations toutes plus horribles les unes que les autres et finir par le persuader que décidément la violence est partout et que lui-même peut en être la victime, un peu comme ce que l’on fait justement subir à Alex dans le film de Stanley Kubrick. C’est là l’indéniable côté « traitement Luduvico » de cette France Orange mécanique – à la différence de taille qu’il s’agit là non d’endormir les conscience mais bien de les réveiller.

Certes, Laurent Obertone n’y va pas avec le dos de la cuillère et n’est pas toujours à l’abri de facilités, de raccourcis ou de jugement à l’emporte pièce dont on peut comprendre qu’ils représentent un défouloir mais qui finissent par altérer la réflexion. De même sa vision, disons génético-animalière du monde, étayée, d’ailleurs brillamment, par les thèses du biologiste Richard Dawkins selon lesquelles nous serions prisonniers de nos gènes et du zoologiste Konrad Lorenz pour qui l’agressivité est déjà dans la bactérie, pourra apparaître quelque peu univoque – même si l’on comprend que pour le criminologue, c’est le monde entier qui devient à un certain moment criminogène. Il n’empêche que la subjectivité, parfois discutable, du jugement est toujours amortie par l’objectivité du constat. N’en déplaise aux esprits forts, c’est le réel qui est choquant, non le dégoût qu’il suscite.

3. Voici donc un livre certainement excessif mais d’un excès qui est à la mesure de la réalité. Et une réalité qui, comme toujours, a l’art de contrarier les dogmes de la sociologie dominante. Ainsi, un bourdivin sera fort irrité d’apprendre que la criminalité ne va pas forcément de pair avec la pauvreté, l’environnement et le chômage, et que, par exemple, des départements comme la Creuse, le Cantal et le Lot, qui ont le PIB le plus bas de France, sont aussi ceux qui ont le taux de criminalité et de délinquance le moins élevé alors que des départements à forte criminalité comme l’Essonne, le Val-de-Marne ou la Seine-et-Marne, sont beaucoup plus riches, beaucoup plus entreprenants, et le comble, beaucoup plus subventionnés.. C’est que contrairement à ce que pensent nos journalistes officiels, évidemment tous de gauche (car comme le rappelle Obertone, citant une étude étonnamment sérieuse de Marianne datant du 23 avril 2001 : 94 % des journalistes votent à gauche – ou au centre pour les plus subversifs d’entre eux), les problèmes sont parfois beaucoup moins « sociaux » qu’ethniques et religieux. Et force est de constater, avec Eric Zemmour, Malek Boutih, les sociologues Hugues Lagrange et Sébastien Roché, et n’importe quel Ministre de l’Intérieur qui daignerait montrer ses chiffes, qu’il y a en effet une sur-délinquance des Noirs et des Arabes. Mais qu’on se rassure, la criminalité des autochtones a augmenté elle aussi. Ouf !

2. Mais tout de même, et quelle que soit la justesse du constat, n’est-ce pas faire le jeu du Front National que d’exposer tout cela au grand public, s’inquiètera telle grande conscience citoyenne et vigilante tant il est vrai que pour elle l’inquiétant n’est pas tant ce qui se passe dans la rue que dans la tête des gens qui habitent cette rue, et que l’essentiel est moins de protéger les gens des voyous que d’eux-mêmes et de leurs réflexes xénophobes. La culture de l’excuse pour tous mais pas pour le raciste, attention ! Lui n’a aucune circonstance atténuante, aucune possibilité de repentance ou de remise de peine, aucune chance morale et pénale – et l’on se dit alors que si l’on traitait médiatiquement, moralement et pénalement les délinquants comme on traite les racistes, ça rigolerait beaucoup moins dans le neuf trois. Il n’empêche que le Front National, loin d’apparaître comme ce qui pourrait nous assurer le salut, ne sort au contraire pas du tout indemne de la critique obertonienne : « le Front National de Marine Le Pen, écrit ce dernier, ne propose rien qui permette de sortir de la spirale à emmerdements : en souhaitant réserver les prestations sociales aux Français (et même les augmenter), il ne fera qu’amorcer la fabrication de sous-sociaux bien de chez nous, made in France. (…) Son programme relève du gauchisme social, l’origine de beaucoup de nos maux. » On ne saurait à la fois être plus engagé et moins partisan.

1. Ce que montre en définitive cette enquête, c’est qu’en France les « débats » sont la plupart du temps idéologiquement faussés. Ainsi des féministes, toujours prêtes à se battre contre un « mademoiselle » ou une campagne de mode jugée putassière, mais rarement sur place lorsqu’il s’agit de juger de ce qui se passe vraiment dans les cités – au contraire de ce documentaire de Cathy Sanchez, intitulé La Cité du Mâle, diffusé, après moult hésitations par peur d’être accusé de « discrimination », sur Arte en septembre 2010, et dans lequel des djeuns, nourris au rap et au RnB, parlaient librement de leur conception de la femme, assez éloignée, il faut le reconnaître, de celle de Marianne. Pour certains commentateurs officiels, c’était ces jeunes que la réalisatrice avait « piégés ». Culpabiliser les coupables, ça ne se fait pas. En revanche, ce sont les innocents qu’il faut convaincre de mauvaise conscience. Et le travail de sape par les médias est telle que l’on tombe parfois sur des victimes d’agression qui plutôt de s’indigner de leur agression, s’indignent qu’on « l’instrumentalise » – tel ce jeune homme de 19 ans qui en décembre 2008 se voit provoqué, volé et tabassé par une bande de voyous en plein Noctilien parisien, et qui, parce qu’on a filmé son agression et qu’elle est passée sur Internet, ne trouve rien de mieux à dire qu’il ne veut surtout pas qu’on en fasse un « amalgame », parce que ce soir là, il était habillé « de façon bourgeoise » (donc sans doute un chouïa provocante pour les voyous qui l’ont pris à partie) et qu’il ne voudrait surtout pas qu’on stigmatise ces derniers, tant il tient plus que tout à ce que l’on préserve ce vivre-ensemble plutôt que son instinct de survie à lui. Il est vrai qu’à notre époque, l’ordre est devenu caduque, alors que c’est le premier besoin de l’âme, comme le disait Simone Weil, et le premier souci des pauvres – un souci qui n’est visiblement pas celui de Christine Taubira ni de Noël Mamère pour qui « la justice n’est pas là pour envoyer des gens en prison ». Punir, pour ces gens qui raisonnent comme le maire de Monsieur Ouine, c’est ajouter du mal au mal, c’est dramatiser encore plus un meurtre ou un viol, c’est insister trop sur le scandale de la violence. Malheur à celui par qui le scandale arrive ! Malheur, surtout, à la victime qui oserait se rebeller – tel ce père qui ose gifler le violeur de 13 ans de sa fillette de 4 ans et qui se voit traîner au tribunal par la mère du premier et condamné à 200 euros d’amende avec sursis. « La part des victimes, c’est la part des ténèbres », écrit superbement Obertone dans ce livre qui pourrait, pour ceux qui croient encore à la justice et au contrat social, être une lueur d’espoir.

Laurent Obertone, La France Orange Mécanique, Editions Ring, 352 pages, 18 euros, n vente le 17 janvier 2013.

Publicités

Juifs utiles: Une force brutale d’occupation comparable à l’armée allemande durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale (The Gatekeepers: Ex-Shin Bet chiefs compare Israel to nazi Germany)

27 février, 2013
Aujourd’hui, ma principale indignation concerne la Palestine, la bande de Gaza, la Cisjordanie. (…)  Pas mal… Il faut être israélien pour qualifier de terroriste la non-violence. Stéphane Hessel
J’étais en contact permanent avec l’équipe qui a rédigé la Déclaration, dont l’Américaine Eleanor Roosevelt et le Français René Cassin. (…) Au cours des trois années, 1946, 1947, 1948, il y a eu une série de réunions, certaines faciles et d’autres plus difficiles. J’assistais aux séances et j’écoutais ce qu’on disait mais je n’ai pas rédigé la Déclaration. J’ai été témoin de cette période exceptionnelle. Stéphane Hessel (2008)
En réalité, le mot qui s’applique – qui devrait s’appliquer – est celui de crime de guerre et même de crime contre l’humanité. (..)  Pour ma part, ayant été à Gaza, ayant vu les camps de réfugiés avec des milliers d’enfants, la façon dont ils sont bombardés m’apparaît comme un véritable crime contre l’humanité. Stéphane Hessel (à propos de l’offensive israélienne dans la bande de Gaza, 5 janvier 2009)
Au cours des trois dernières années, à l’invitation de mes amis israéliens, qui font partie d’une minorité courageuse, nous y sommes allés, ma femme et moi, par trois fois. Nous avons constaté que la Cisjordanie est complètement ingérable parce qu’elle est occupée, colonisée. Les routes ne sont pas autorisées pour les Palestiniens. Ces derniers sont traités avec un mépris épouvantable par Israël. Quant à la bande de Gaza, elle a été enfermée dans ce que l’on peut appeler une « prison à ciel ouvert ». L’opération « Plomb durci », de décembre 2008 à janvier 2009, a été une succession de crimes de guerre et de crimes contre l’humanité. La manière dont l’armée israélienne s’est comportée est absolument scandaleuse. Nous étions à Gaza en même temps que l’équipe dirigée par le juge Goldstone, et je peux témoigner que tout ce que relève le rapport Goldstone est exact. (…) Le gouvernement d’Israël bénéficie en effet d’une impunité scandaleuse, alors que depuis des années il bafoue le droit international et rejette les résolutions de l’ONU, ne respecte pas la Convention de Genève.  (…) Dès la fin de la guerre, je me suis retrouvé à New York comme fonctionnaire à l’ONU. J’ai assisté simultanément à deux événements importants : la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme et la création de l’État d’Israël. Pour quelqu’un comme moi, né de père juif et qui sortait des camps de concentration, cette création était de l’ordre du merveilleux. Je n’étais pas conscient du fait que cet État ne pouvait exister qu’en chassant un nombre considérable de Palestiniens de leurs terres. (…) Pendant vingt ans, j’ai continué à considérer favorablement le développement d’Israël : j’étais admiratif des kibboutz et des moshav. Tout a changé en 1967 avec la guerre des Six Jours. Cette guerre, gagnée par Israël pratiquement en une matinée, a donné aux gouvernants de l’époque ce que j’appelle une hubris, un sentiment de supériorité extraordinaire, qui les a amenés à ne plus tenir compte du droit international. C’est à partir de 1967 que je me suis engagé dans le camp de ceux qui voulaient un retrait des forces israéliennes la création d’un État palestinien. Stéphane Hessel (Jeune Afrique, 17.05.10)
Aujourd’hui nous pouvons constater ceci : la souplesse de la politique d’occupation allemande permettait, à la fin de la guerre encore, une politique culturelle d’ouverture. Il était permis à Paris de jouer des pièces de Jean-Paul Sartre ou d’écouter Juliette Gréco. Si je peux oser une comparaison audacieuse sur un sujet qui me touche, j’affirme ceci: l’occupation allemande était, si on la compare par exemple avec l’occupation actuelle de la Palestine par les Israéliens, une occupation relativement inoffensive, abstraction faite d’éléments d’exception comme les incarcérations, les internements et les exécutions, ainsi que le vol d’oeuvres d’art. Tout cela était terrible. Mais il s’agissait d’une politique d’occupation qui voulait agir positivement et de ce fait nous rendait à nous résistant le travail si difficile. Stéphane Hessel (20110)
L’avenir est noir. Nous sommes devenus une force brutale d’occupation. Comparable à l’armée allemande durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, du moins pour ce qu’elle fit aux populations polonaise, belge, hollandaise ou tchèque. Avraham Shalom
Des « pieux » mensonges de Sartre pour ne pas désespérer Billancourt, couvrant ainsi les crimes communistes dont il devenait complice de fait… aux mensonges et falsifications de la meute anti-israélienne, couvrant ainsi les crimes terroristes arabo-islamistes dont ils se rendent complices, existe-il une différence de nature? (…) De quoi auraient l’air une Sallenave ou un Pascal Boniface ou encore une Leïla Shahid sans l’appoint d’un quelconque supplétif juif? David Dawidowicz
Fort heureusement, la réplique de Szlamowicz à Hessel est là pour nous rappeler un certain nombre de vérités attestées par des documents : la responsabilité de Hadj Amine El Husseini, grand admirateur d’Hitler dans l’exode de certains Arabes de Palestine lors de la Guerre d’Indépendance d’Israël, le chiffre extravagant du nombre des « réfugiés » palestiniens, l’occultation de la question des réfugiés juifs des pays arabes spoliés et chassés de leurs terroirs ancestraux, les attendus effrayants pour Israël et pour les Juifs contenus dans la charte de l’OLP jamais amendée comme dans celle du Hamas, l’éducation donnée aux enfants dans les écoles palestiniennes, le principe islamique de la tromperie, la taqqiya, Sans oublier l’utilisation abusive du terme « colon », le passé négationniste de Mahmoud Abbas auteur d’une « thèse » d’histoire soutenue à Moscou en 1982 et intitulée « La connexion entre les nazis et les dirigeants sionistes, 1933-1945 », ou encore l’expression de « Mur de l’apartheid » pour fustiger une barrière de sécurité appelée en hébreu geder hahafrada, « grillage de séparation », ce que le « Mur » est effectivement sur 96% de son parcours. Fort opportunément l’auteur nous rappelle les grands textes fondateurs de l’Israël moderne, notamment le traité de San Remo de la Société des Nations qui date de 1920 relatif aux territoires de Judée-Samarie. Ce traité, nous explique-t-il, n’a jamais été abrogé. Il aurait pu l’être par le plan de partage de 1948 mais les Arabes, on le sait, l’ont refusé. En somme, nous explique Szlamowicz, « non seulement les prétentions d’Israël sur ces territoires sont légitimes par rapport à cette histoire récente, mais les territoires aujourd’hui sous contrôle israélien ont été acquis-dans le cadre d’une nouvelle guerre d’extermination menée par les pays arabes et perdue par ces derniers-lors de la Guerre des 6 Jours de 1967 aux dépens de la Jordanie (et de l’Égypte pour Gaza) qui ne les réclame plus depuis 1988. Il s’agit donc de territoires qui n’ont jamais appartenu à une entité palestinienne qui n’existait pas à l’époque-et qui ne les a d’ailleurs jamais réclamés ni aux Jordaniens ni aux Égyptiens. Considérer que ces territoires seraient légitimement et automatiquement « palestiniens » est donc largement abusif ». Présentation de l’Editeur
[Stéphane Hessel] se présente et se laisse présenter comme le rédacteur de la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme, alors que, poussé dans ses derniers retranchements, il a fini par concéder un jour – mais un peu tard – qu’il ne l’avait jamais été. Autre imposture de taille : ses choix dans le registre de sa prétendue indignation. Je vous mets au défi de trouver dans ce livre la moindre indignation en politique étrangère à l’exclusion notable de la Palestine. Il ne s’indigne pas de la Syrie, du Rwanda, du Tibet, ni du sort des chrétiens d’Orient, les nouveaux esclaves des émirats. Le génocide au Darfour ne lui arrache pas un soupir : la seule chose qui l’intéresse, c’est de fustiger Israël. Gilles-William Goldnadel (auteur de Le vieil homme m’indigne, 2912)
Qui aurait osé soutenir, avec un tel aplomb, s’il n’avait pas d’emblée bénéficié d’un quitus, la cause palestinienne, attaquer avec une telle constance la politique d’Israël ? Qui aurait pu se permettre avec une telle démagogie de vitupérer la dictature des marchés financiers et les écarts de richesse grandissants ? Qui aurait eu le front de s’en prendre ainsi à la politique gouvernementale à l’encontre des sans papiers et des Roms en feignant de négliger que les mesures incriminées avaient été prises dans un espace démocratique et que celui-ci donnait une toute autre tonalité à l’odieux dénoncé unilatéralement par Stéphane Hessel ? Qui aurait accusé le Pouvoir, avec si peu de nuance et d’équilibre, d’avoir « bradé » les acquis sociaux de la Résistance comme les retraites ou la sécurité sociale? Philippe Berger 
La vacuité du propos qui décrit un monde binaire où l’on conspue les méchants (les financiers, la mondialisation, le ministre de l’intérieur, Israël) et où l’on chante les louanges des bons (les sans-papiers, les sans logis, les Roms, les Palestiniens, le programme du CNR) a beau être relevée par des gens aussi peu suspects de pensée subversive qu’Eric Le Boucher, le succès est irrésistible. Hessel, c’est l’axe du bien à lui tout seul : toute sa vie, il a eu tout juste, a toujours été du bon côté, ne s’est jamais compromis avec les salauds, s’est toujours arrangé pour que sa biographie ne puisse être autre chose qu’une hagiographie. (…) Brandir aujourd’hui le programme du Conseil national de la Résistance pour faire honte aux gouvernants d’aujourd’hui relève au mieux de l’idiotie historique, au pire de l’imposture. Ce texte de compromis s’appliquait à une France traumatisée qu’il fallait rassembler pour qu’elle se relève, dans un contexte où n’existaient ni l’Union européenne, ni la liberté généralisée des échanges des biens et des marchandises. (…) On n’a parfaitement le droit de ne pas aimer Israël, son gouvernement et même son peuple. Mais faut-il pour autant aller se prosterner à Gaza devant les chefs du Hamas ? Affirmer, lors d’un débat public, que les obus lancés par ces mêmes gens du Hamas n’avaient pour effet que de « faire courir un peu plus vite les habitants de Sdérot vers les abris » ? Luc Rosenzweig
Le CRIF a appris le décès de Stéphane Hessel à l’âge de 95 ans. Il est de notoriété publique que nous étions très opposés à ses prises de position, notamment à sa volonté obsessionnelle de faire de Gaza l’épicentre de l’injustice dans ce monde et du Hamas un mouvement pacifique, quasiment d’assistance sociale, contrastant avec son indifférence aux tragédies humaines et aux crimes de masse qui se déroulent de nos jours dans un silence général. Il est vrai que nous étions stupéfaits par sa propension à grandir ou à laisser grandir par ses thuriféraires dévoués, le rôle qu’il avait tenu dans plusieurs événements importants de notre histoire ainsi que par la volonté des médias de ne pas relayer ses déclarations sur la bénignité de l’occupation nazie en France qui, émises par tout autre que lui, auraient soulevé l’indignation. Il va sans dire que nous étions effarés par le succès de son fascicule d’une indigente indignation. Nous pensons que la mise au pavois de Stéphane Hessel, malgré ses accommodements avec la vérité historique et sa faiblesse argumentative, en dit beaucoup sur le désarroi intellectuel de notre société et sur le rôle aberrant qu’y joue le marketing des individus qu’on transforme à bas prix en luminaires idéologiques. Stéphane Hessel fut avant tout un maître à ne pas penser. Son grand âge, son sourire, son apparente ingénuité, son indignation focalisée et ses poèmes surannés évoquaient un monde angélique, mais pavaient la route, certainement sans qu’il le voulût lui-même, aux véritables criminels tapis derrière l’enfer des bonnes intentions. Richard Pasquier

Attention: un juif utile peut en cacher d’autres !

En ce triste jour où vient de nous quitter notre dernier grand résistant national et co-rédacteur de la déclaration des droits de l’homme Stéphane Hussel ….

Pendant que de l’Iran à la Syrie s’accumulent tant les preuves de financement du terrorisme mondial que les victimes de la furie islamique …

Comment ne pas être frappé de l’étrange convergence …

Entre son indéfectible zèle à créditer l’occupation israélienne de la Palestine du jusqu’ici indépassable label nazi …

Et avec le film qui sort la semaine prochaine en France (« Israel confidential/The Gatekeepers ») …

L’époustouflante confirmation des anciens chefs des services secrets israéliens eux-mêmes ?

Les services secrets israéliens sous une lumière crue aux Oscars

AFPQC |AFP

Huffington Post

19/02/2013

Mises en cause dans l’affaire du « prisonnier X », les toutes-puissantes agences de renseignement d’Israël sortent exceptionnellement de l’ombre pour se retrouver sous les projecteurs des Oscars avec « The Gatekeepers », un documentaire à la lumière crue et au ton amer.

Favori dans la catégorie du Meilleur documentaire, « The Gatekeepers (Israel Confidential) », co-production franco-israélienne, présente pour la première fois les témoignages de six anciens patrons du Shin Beth, le service de la sécurité intérieure, accusé d’être un maître ès basses oeuvres.

Avec une franchise inédite de la part d’ex-dirigeants du renseignement, et une introspection toute israélienne.

« C’est un film important », estimait récemment le journaliste et polémiste de gauche Gideon Levy, tout en reprochant au metteur en scène Dror Moreh d' »avoir rendu la vie un peu trop facile à ces types ».

Les « Gardiens » -Avraham Shalom, directeur du « Shabak » (autre nom du Shin Beth) de 1980 à 1986, Yaakov Peri (1988-1994), Carmi Gillon (1994-1996), Ami Ayalon (1996-2000), Avi Dichter (2000-2005) et Youval Diskin (2005-2011)- lèvent un voile sur trois décennies de lutte antiterroriste.

Mais au bout de leurs récits, accompagnés d’images d’archives et de photos animées, il y a davantage de servitude que de grandeur.

Pourtant considérés comme des héros en Israël, tous partagent un sentiment d’échec face à la question palestinienne.

Echec illustré par l’anecdote de ces jeunes soldats qui après la victoire israélienne de 1967, ne parlant pas assez bien l’arabe, annoncent à des habitants palestiniens qu’ils sont venus les « castrer » quand ils voulaient dire « recenser ».

Illustré aussi par la surprise du Shin Beth quand éclate la première Intifada le 9 décembre 1987, soulèvement qui embrase les Territoires occupés et qu’il n’avait pas vu venir malgré son appareil de répression et ses informateurs.

Les « Gardiens » confessent un certain aveuglement et un aveu d’impuissance devant l’extrémisme sioniste religieux qui conduira à l’assassinat de Yitzhak Rabin et à la défaite, peut-être définitive, du camp de la paix en Israël.

C’est sans doute le principal apport du film de Dror Moreh, déjà auteur d’un documentaire (positif) sur Ariel Sharon et pourfendeur de l’extrême droite: éclairer un radicalisme juif peu connu des spectateurs non israéliens.

« On a gagné toutes les batailles, mais on a perdu la guerre », résume Ami Ayalon, chargé de redorer le blason du Shin Beth discrédité au lendemain du meurtre du Premier ministre travailliste à l’issue d’un rassemblement pacifiste à Tel-Aviv le 4 novembre 1995.

Eux qui ont dirigé une guerre sale sans état d’âme, ils reconnaissent qu’elle ne peut apporter une solution au conflit israélo-palestinien et déplorent le manque de vision diplomatique de la classe politique israélienne.

Certains de leurs constats sont sans appel, comme le jugement accablant, sinon choquant, du vétéran Avraham Shalom qui compare in fine les forces d’occupation israéliennes à l’armée allemande pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Retournement de l’Histoire? Apparemment convaincus de l’immoralité d’une occupation brutale et qui dessert les intérêts à long terme d’Israël, nombre d’anciens soldats de l’ombre semblent virer leur cuti en partant à la retraite.

Le précédent chef du Shin Beth, Youval Diskin a mené l’an dernier une campagne féroce contre le Premier ministre de droite Benjamin Netanyahu et son ministre de la Défense Ehud Barak, les accusant de « tromper » les Israéliens sur l’Iran et de ne pas être à « un niveau suffisant » pour gérer une guerre contre Téhéran.

Ses critiques faisaient écho à celles de l’ancien patron du Mossad (le service de renseignement extérieur), Méir Dagan, et de l’ex-chef d’état-major, le général Gaby Ashkenazi.

Diskin fustige aussi le désintérêt de « Bibi » Netanyahu pour les négociations de paix avec les Palestiniens.

« Quand on quitte le Shin Beth, on devient un peu gauchiste », ironise à la fin du documentaire Yaakov Peri, élu récemment député du parti modéré Yesh Atid et ministre potentiel.

Voir aussi:

Les confessions des espions du Shin Beth secouent Israël

Adrien Jaulmes

Le Figaro

17/01/2013

Dans un documentaire, The Gatekeepers, sélectionné pour les Oscars, d’anciens chefs du service de renseignements dévoilent leurs méthodes et jugent que la répression face aux Palestiniens mène à l’impasse.

Correspondant à Jérusalem

Ils ne sont ni des pacifistes ni des idéalistes, mais des professionnels du renseignement et de l’action. Aucun n’a jamais laissé de scrupules moraux interférer avec ses décisions ni n’a reculé devant des méthodes expéditives pour lutter contre l’activisme palestinien.

Pourtant, tous reconnaissent que la politique sécuritaire israélienne dans les Territoires occupés n’est pas viable à long terme. «Ce n’est que de la tactique, pas de la stratégie», résume l’un d’entre eux. Ils savent d’autant mieux de quoi ils parlent qu’ils ont été depuis trente ans les principaux responsables de sa mise en œuvre.

Le documentaire Israel Confidential (The Gatekeepers, dans sa version anglaise), du réalisateur israélien Dror Moreh et financé en grande partie par la société française Les Films du Poisson, est basé sur les témoignages des six anciens chefs du Shin Beth, le service du renseignement intérieur israélien: Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Ami Ayalon, Avi Ditcher et Yuval Diskin.

Entrecoupés d’images d’archives ou d’étonnantes reconstitutions dynamiques réalisées à partir de photos d’époque, leurs témoignages constituent un document exceptionnel qui va à l’encontre de beaucoup d’idées reçues et pose avec une acuité nouvelle la question de l’occupation des Territoires palestiniens par Israël.

«Dans la guerre contre le terrorisme, il n’y a pas de morale»

Ces hommes portent un regard froid de professionnels sur leurs propres actions. Ils n’occultent rien de leurs méthodes – recrutement d’informateurs, emploi de techniques d’interrogatoires relevant de la torture, assassinats ciblés -, qu’ils considèrent comme justifiées par leur mission.

«Dans la guerre contre le terrorisme, il n’y a pas de morale», souligne Avraham Shalom. Cet homme aux allures de paisible retraité avait pourtant été obligé de démissionner après le scandale du bus 300 en 1984, lorsque la presse avait révélé que deux des Palestiniens qui avaient détourné le car et ses passagers avaient été froidement assassinés après l’assaut des commandos israéliens, alors qu’ils étaient déjà prisonniers. «Le problème, c’était qu’il y avait des journalistes», dit seulement Avraham Shalom.

Le film évoque les assassinats ciblés, avec des images effrayantes de bombes qui explosent silencieusement sur des films en noir et blanc tournés par des drones au-dessus de Gaza. «Il y a parfois très peu de temps pour prendre une décision, alors que l’on est capable de tuer comme ça, en un instant», dit Carmi Gillon.

Il aborde aussi la grave crise traversée par le Shin Beth dans les années 1990, lorsque le service se révèle incapable de prévenir l’assassinat de Yitzhak Rabin. Les anciens chefs du service évoquent leur désarroi devant la clémence dont ont bénéficié depuis les activistes d’extrême droite de la Jewish Underground, dont l’idéologie a inspiré l’assassin du premier ministre, et qui projetaient de faire exploser le Dôme du Rocher à Jérusalem.

«On doit discuter avec tout le monde»

Mais le plus troublant reste la conclusion qu’ils tirent de leur expérience. Ces hommes, qui ont passé toute leur carrière à rassembler, analyser et exploiter tous les renseignements possibles sur les Palestiniens et à monter des opérations clandestines visant à décapiter les organisations d’activistes, arrivent tous au même constat: «On gagne toutes les batailles, mais on perd la guerre.» La répression n’est pas la solution.

«Nous nous contentons de maintenir les flammes au plus bas niveau possible, afin de permettre au gouvernement de prendre des décisions. Mais nous n’avons jamais réglé le problème», dit l’un d’eux.

Aucun d’entre eux n’a une vision très optimiste du futur. Et tous admettent continuer à réfléchir après leur retraite. «À la fin, on finit par devenir un peu de gauche», plaisante Yaakov Peri. Ils sont en faveur de négociations, sans exclure personne, y compris le Hamas. «On doit discuter avec tout le monde, c’est un principe de base dans notre métier», dit l’un d’eux.

Certains sont déjà allés plus loin que les autres et ont tiré les conséquences de leurs réflexions. Ami Ayalon avait, en 2002, en pleine intifada, élaboré un plan de paix avec l’intellectuel palestinien Sari Nusseibeh. Plus récemment, Yuval Diskin s’est opposé aux préparatifs d’action militaire de Nétanyahou contre l’Iran et a donné ces dernières semaines plusieurs interviews où il décrit le premier ministre comme un dangereux irresponsable. La sortie du film en pleine campagne électorale a déjà fait beaucoup de bruit en Israël. Il a été sélectionné en finale des Academy Awards, par le Festival de Sundance et figure parmi les favoris pour l’oscar du meilleur documentaire.

Voir également:

Le documentaire qui trouble Israël

Baudouin Loos

13 février 2013

Avec The Gatekeepers (les Gardiens), Dror Moreh secoue Israël. Ses témoins: les six anciens chefs de la sécurité israélienne intérieure. Qui parlent face caméra et contre l’occupation. « Car ils sont inquiets pour l’avenir d’Israël », dit le réalisateur.

Un documentaire peut-il changer la face du monde? Certes non. Mais il peut susciter une prise de conscience salutaire. Dror Moreh, le réalisateur israélien qui a filmé The Gatekeepers (1) a sans aucun doute fait oeuvre utile, en jetant ce pavé dans la mare, ou plutôt en apportant cette pierre dans l’édifice encore à bâtir qui s’appellerait la paix au Proche-Orient. Parce que ses « acteurs », les témoins qu’ils a interrogés avec minutie pendant trois ans, ne sont pas n’importe qui. Ce ne sont pas ceux qui argumentent en général pour la paix israélo-palestinienne. Ce ne sont pas « des juifs qui cultivent la haine de soi », ou quelques gauchistes mal dégrossis. Non. Ce sont les six ex-chefs du Shin Beth encore en vie. Le Shin Beth, aussi appelé la Shabak, ce sont les services de sécurité intérieure. Des durs.

Le documentaire choc qui, signe des temps, a vaincu sans problème la censure militaire israélienne, connaît un beau succès en Israël. Une quinzaine de cinémas le diffusent et font salles combles…

Nous voilà donc en présence de ceux qui ont, des années durant, dirigé les services qui espionnaient la société palestinienne, réprimaient, arrêtaient, torturaient, tuaient des Palestiniens. Accessoirement aussi, ils s’occupaient des extrémistes israéliens juifs. Six anciens responsables qui ont voué leur vie à la défense de la sécurité d’Israël. Et qui disent, chacun à sa façon, comment, comme le proclame l’un d’eux en conclusion du film, « nous avons gagné toutes les batailles mais nous perdons la guerre ».

La plongée dans les « batailles » du Shin Beth ne laisse pas indemne. C’est la lutte « contre le terrorisme ». A savoir le monde des exécutions (plus ou moins bien) ciblées, du recrutement intensif de collaborateurs, de la torture. Les chefs à la retraite en parlent. Tous avec réalisme. Certains aussi avec cynisme. Comme celui qui sourit au souvenir de l’assassinat par téléphone piégé de « l’ingénieur » du Hamas Yehya Ayache, en janvier 1996, « un beau travail, très propre, élégant ». Les représailles du Hamas, sans doute moins « élégantes », allaient faire des dizaines de morts dans des bus israéliens et ramener la droite extrémiste israélienne au pouvoir…

« L’avenir est noir, dit l’un des anciens responsables. Nous sommes devenus une force brutale d’occupation. Comparable à l’armée allemande durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, du moins pour ce qu’elle fit aux populations polonaise, belge, hollandaise ou tchèque. » Un autre lâche: « Nous rendons la vie de millions de gens insupportable, nous les maintenons dans une souffrance humaine prolongée et ça me tue ».

Les six hommes n’affichent pas tous contrition ou résipiscence. Et puis, leurs états d’âme pourraient être considérés comme tardifs, ainsi que l’estime Gideon Levy, un chroniqueur du quotidien Haaretz qui n’a pas l’habitude de dissimuler ses sentiments: « Ils roulent des yeux, écrivait-il le 30 décembre dernier, et rejettent la responsabilité sur les dirigeants politiques comme s’ils n’auraient pas pu les influencer, comme s’ils n’auraient pas pu moins torturer, moins tuer ».

Binyamin Netanyahou a fait savoir par un communiqué qu’il n’avait pas vu le film et qu’il n’avait pas l’intention de le voir. On peut comprendre le Premier ministre israélien. Que des experts israéliens bien plus qualifiés que lui en matière de sécurité, de terrorisme, viennent proclamer face caméra, après mûres réflexions, que « l’occupation est mauvaise pour Israël » ne peut résonner agréablement à ses oreilles.

(1) La RTBF figure parmi les coproducteurs de ce documentaire. La Une le diffusera le 27 février à 22 heures, sous le titre Israel Confidential. Trois jours plus tôt, le réalisateur de The Gatekeepers saura s’il a reçu à Hollywood l’oscar du meilleur documentaire, catégorie dans laquelle il est nommé.

Voir encore:

The Gatekeepers: In New Film, Ex-Shin Bet Chiefs Denounce Occupation, Compare Israel to Nazi Germany

Democracy now

January 29, 2013

Amidst a spate of killings by Israeli forces of unarmed Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, we turn to the stunning Oscar-nominated documentary, « The Gatekeepers. » The film brings together six former heads of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, collectively speaking out for the first time ever. They detail their methods against Palestinian militants and civilians in the Occupied Territories, including targeted killings, torture, recruiting informants, and the suppression of mass protests during two intifadas. But in doing so, they also criticize the occupation they were assigned with defending and warn that successive Israeli governments have endangered their country’s future by refusing to make peace. « We are making the lives of millions unbearable, into prolonged human suffering, [and] it kills me, » Carmi Gillon says in the film. « [We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II, » adds Avraham Shalom. We are joined by the film’s director, Dror Moreh.AARON MATÉ: For our first segment, we turn to Israel and the Occupied Territories, where Israeli forces have begun the year with a spate of killings of unarmed Palestinian civilians. So far this month, at least five unarmed Palestinians have been shot to death by Israeli troops. The latest we know about was a 21-year-old Palestinian woman named Lubna Hanash, who was killed when Israeli forces opened fire at a West Bank school. A witness said Hanash was standing with a group of companions when they came under fire.

Transcript

AHMED ABU KHERAN: [translated] Two Israeli solders traveling in a white car pointed their weapons, shooting indiscriminately at a college, where the women were standing at the entrance, and there was another man inside. They shot three people, and then a large number of soldiers arrived.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Monday, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem put out a report saying Israeli forces have been « extensively and systematically » violating their own rules of engagement when suppressing protests in the West Bank, in many cases leading to Palestinian deaths. According to B’Tselem, since 2005 at least 48 Palestinians have been killed by live ammunition fired at people throwing stones. Six more were killed by rubber-coated bullets fired at dangerously close range, and two were killed by tear-gas canisters directly fired at protesters. This is B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli.

SARIT MICHAELI: This report exposes for the first time the full list of crowd-control weapons used by the Israeli security forces in the West Bank regarding Palestinian demonstrations, weapons like tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, the skunk stun grenades—different weapons that are meant to be non-lethal if used properly and according to regulations. We actually also provide the relevant military regulations that restrict the use of these different elements, and we show how these regulations are often very widely flouted by soldiers.

AARON MATÉ: That was Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Well, we turn now to an explosive new documentary film that features some unlikely and unprecedented criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. One subject of the film says, quote, « We are making the lives of millions unbearable, into prolonged human suffering, [and] it kills me. » A different subject of the film says, We’ve become, quote, « a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II. »

AMY GOODMAN: Now, these aren’t the words of Israeli peace activists or even of soldiers who have refused to serve in the Occupied Territories; they’re the words of the former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service and the agency responsible for the country’s internal security. And in The Gatekeepers, by Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh, these five—these six former Shin Bet chiefs are brought together to speak out for the first time ever.

In separate interviews, they they detail their methods against Palestinian militants and civilians in the Occupied Territories, including targeted killings, torture, recruiting informants, and the suppression of mass protests during the two intifadas. But in doing so, they also criticize the occupation they were assigned with defending and warn successive Israeli governments have endangered their country’s future by refusing to make peace.

In this clip, Yuval Diskin, who headed the Shin Bet from 2005 to 2011, shares the doubts he’s carried with him about the targeted killings of Palestinian militants.

YUVAL DISKIN: [translated] People expect a decision. And by « decision, » they usually mean « to act. » That’s a decision. « Don’t do it » seems easier, but it’s often harder. Sometimes it’s a super-clean operation: No one was hurt except the terrorists. Even then, later, life stops, at night, in the day, when you’re shaving—we all have our moments—on vacation. You say, « OK, I made a decision, and x number of people were killed. They were definitely about to launch a big attack. » No one near them was hurt. It was as sterile as possible. Yet you still say, « There’s something unnatural about it. » What’s unnatural is the power you have to take three people, terrorists, and take their lives in an instant.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Yuval Diskin, one of six former Shin Bet chiefs interviewed in the new documentary The Gatekeepers. It has just been nominated for the Academy Award for best documentary, joining a list of nominees that also includes another film about the Israeli occupation, Five Broken Cameras. The Gatekeepers opens in limited release in New York and Los Angeles Friday. Its director, Dror Moreh, joins us here in New York.

We welcome you, Dror, to New York to the studios of Democracy Now! You have interviewed all six surviving former Shin Bet heads, equivalent to the heads of the FBI.

DROR MOREH: FBI—well, a combination of FBI, CIA. They do all the things together.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you pull this off? Why did they talk to you?

DROR MOREH: I think they were ready to do that. I think that when I came to speak to them—as you know, timing is the most important thing, and I think that when I came to them with the idea of doing the movie, they felt that it’s already long due, needed, and that they had to speak, because they were worried about the state of Israel. They were worried about where Israel is headed if it will continue to maintain this occupation. So it was, for them, a kind of non-issue to come and speak in the movie.

AMY GOODMAN: In this clip, former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter discusses an Israeli bombing of a home in Gaza in July 2002. The attack killed Salah Shehadeh, the head of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, but also 14 innocent civilians, including Shehadeh’s wife and daughter and a family of seven living next door. Dozens were also wounded. The attack occurred just as Shehadeh was reportedly preparing to sign onto a ceasefire halting attacks on Israelis not in the Occupied Territories. Here, Dror Moreh, the director, confronts Dichter about the civilian deaths.

AVI DICHTER: [translated] The Air Force dropped a one-ton bomb on the house. Unfortunately, because of inaccurate intelligence, innocents were killed. No one knows the final number: nine to 14.

DROR MOREH: [translated] When you drop a one-ton bomb on a densely populated area, like in the Shehadeh incident, obviously bystanders will be hurt.

AVI DICHTER: [translated] No, it’s not obvious, no. You gather intelligence: Where do people live? How many? Who? What are the chances? Where do you shoot from?

AMY GOODMAN: Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter. Talk about his response.

DROR MOREH: Well, look, I—I have to say that I a little bit feel uncomfortable in the way that you present the things here, because you portray the things as if Israel is the brutal, aggressive all the time, with the Palestinians, that they are like doves. There is reason why the Shin Bet is doing what it’s doing there. And the fact of the matter is that you cannot say—in a way, portray Israel as the aggressive and the Palestinians are the innocent bystander who are always being killed by those aggressive forces. It’s not the case at all, and I think that this is misleading the people that are watching that.

And I think that there is—if there is something that I failed while doing this film, it’s that the whole situation is different shades of gray. There is no really total aggressive person there or aggressive entity towards a very innocent and not violent entity on the other side. It’s both. Both are doing the worst that they can. I think that I can relate to what Abba Eban said once, our former foreign minister. He said that the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I can say that on both sides. Both sides have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

And this is the whole goal of The Gatekeepers. The Gatekeepers portrays Israeli occupation in the last 45 years and basically says, « Enough of that. It’s not going anywhere. It’s only tactic without strategy. Where do you want to go with this conflict ahead? » and to show that in a way that will only benefits both sides. If you portray only one side as the brutal, aggressive force and the other one as the innocent naive, you are doing wrong to the truth or to the facts on the ground. And I have to say that this is something which my movie tried to do very, very strongly: to portray the situation as it is. The Palestinians are doing terrorist attack. They have right to do, in a way, something which they want to create their own country, their own homeland, and they oppose the aggressive occupation.

AARON MATÉ: Well, we certainly aren’t here to debate the history with you, but we are trying to portray your film, and your movie has some very powerful statements that should be highlighted. You know, you have Avraham Shalom saying something like—a line like: « [We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II. »

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AARON MATÉ: « We have become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war against terror. »

DROR MOREH: Yes.

AARON MATÉ: That’s in your movie, and it’s very powerful.

DROR MOREH: Absolutely, I’m not—yeah, I’m not saying that it’s not in the movie. Well, I did that movie; believe me, I know every sentence that is inside that movie. What I felt is that when you portray that as the Palestinians are people that are sitting there, you know, and not doing anything, it’s not the reality on the ground. And by that, you have to show both sides, because I think that when you do that, you portray only one side. And I said that before. It’s—you have to be balanced. And this is something that I felt that is not so much here.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, could you respond to both of these points? One is this powerful statement that Avraham Shalom says, the former head of Shin Bet—

DROR MOREH: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —comparing themselves to the Nazis.

DROR MOREH: He’s—well, look, I have to say that this sentence that Avraham Shalom said, I—when I was doing the interview, it felt like a physical blow to my stomach when he said that. And I have to say that Avraham Shalom—well, when you see the film, you’ll know what happened in the 300 line when he ordered the execution of two terrorists that were captured alive. I think—

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to talk about that after break. You’re talking about the execution of the—

DROR MOREH: Of the two terrorists who—

AMY GOODMAN: —of those who blew up the bus.

DROR MOREH: Yeah—no, didn’t blow up the bus; they were trying to kidnap the bus. They were captured alive after the storm on the bus. And he ordered them to be executed without a trial.

Look, I think that the occupation is bad for Israel, and I think that those people who came to speak in the movie, the six heads of the security defense establishment, the Shin Bet, came because they feel that the occupation of the Palestinians in the last 45 years is something that is not good for the state of Israel and should be stopped. And I think that when Avraham Shalom spoke about what you just mentioned, he spoke about the ramification of the occupation on the Israeli population, about what is becoming inside, internally, in the Israeli civilian people. And I totally agree with him.

And, by the way, Avraham Shalom was a young kid in Vienna in the 1930s. He didn’t know that he’s a Jew. He was forced to go to school after the Kristallnacht. He was almost beaten to death by his classmates. He felt firsthand what it means to be a Jew under a racist regime. And when he compares that, he compares the Israeli occupation to the Germans, that—like how the Germans treated the Poles, the Czechs, the Dutch, he knows what he speaks about. And I think that his worry is something that had resonance in me, as well, about what—where will it lead, the occupation—I mean, if it will continue like that.

AMY GOODMAN: And Avi Dichter’s point when he’s talking about the killing of the Hamas leader who was going for a ceasefire, killing his wife—

DROR MOREH: Look, this is something that happens in America, as well. Avi Dichter just mentioned after that, in that clip, he said that the Americans have drone attacks in Afghanistan. They killed 70 people in a wedding, which nobody knows if the suspect person was killed, as well. I think that now, in—the war of the 21st century is a war where you need intelligence to get to a needle in a haystack—that means in the form of a terrorist, that you are looking for him. And the intelligence people want to get into that specific person in a certain date at a certain time at a certain place. And this is a very difficult war to maintain. America is doing it now. You—just now you heard in your news that they are going to do drones surveillance over North Africa. I don’t—I think that you have to think strategically: Where do you want to lead with this conflict?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to continue this discussion. Dror Moreh is our guest. He is the Iraeli filmmaker, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Gatekeepers. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AARON MATÉ: Well, we were just talking about the hijacking of the 300 bus, so let’s go to a clip of that. This excerpt deals with the Shin Bet’s killing of two Palestinian hijackers of an Israeli bus in 1984. They were brutally beaten to death by Israeli forces after they were captured. Avraham Shalom, the former Shin Bet director, who’s ordered the killing—who ordered the pair’s killing in person, is among those interviewed. He was later forced to resign over the incident.

AMI AYALON: [translated] We killed a terrorist, whose hands were tied, who no longer threatened us. By what right? But in the Shin Bet back then, there was no such concept as an illegal order. Not only did the Shin Bet fail, the Cabinet and the prime minister failed. And to some degree, they oversee the Shin Bet.

YAAKOV PERI: [translated] It’s a tough question. Did the prime minister know about the premeditated murder, the plan to kill the terrorist caught on the 300 bus? Did the head of the Shin Bet have the authority to do that, to make those decisions?

DROR MOREH: [translated] Under what circumstances did Shamir give you permission to kill?

AVRAHAM SHALOM: [translated] There were one or two cases, when I couldn’t find him, and it had to be done.

DROR MOREH: [translated] What had to be done?

AVRAHAM SHALOM: [translated] We had to deal with Arabs who were about to launch an attack, or that launched an attack. He said, « If you can’t find me, decide on your own. »

AARON MATÉ: That’s Avraham Shalom, a former Shin Bet director, who actually was forced to resign over this incident of the 300 bus. And before him speaking were two other directors of the Shin Bet, interviewed in this film that we’re talking about, The Gatekeepers. So, Dror, if you could talk about this incident?

DROR MOREH: This incident basically shook the corridors of power in Israel. It was the first time that the Shin Bet has come to the light of the cameras or the light of the—because before that, Shin Bet was almost—no one knew about, that Shin Bet existed, only few people around Israel, and basically the Shin Bet could do whatever he wanted. And that resulted in that horrible incident where the head of Shin Bet ordered the killing of two captured terrorists, which is horrible morality, any way that you can look at that.

But the main issue here for me was the fact that the politicians who gave those permissions to Avraham Shalom as head of Shin Bet were not convicted. You know, they always—those people who are in the field pay the price, and the politicians—namely, Yitzhak Shamir, the prime minister, and Shimon Peres—the after-that prime minister—fought in every way that they could in order to prevent that incident to go into the court. And at the end of the day, Avraham Shalom got clemency from the president, before trial even. It was unprecedented that someone get clemency before he was even convicted or tried. And they knew why, because they knew that if it will get into trial, it will reach the highest level of the political people in Israel, the prime minister. And basically, Avraham Shalom said, « I would say in a court that he gave me the permission to do that, » which is horrible.

AMY GOODMAN: In this clip of The Gatekeepers, the Shin Bet security chiefs discuss how they also confronted Israeli militants—in this case, the extremist right-wing group the Jewish Underground, which planned to blow up the Islamic holy site, the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem.

YAAKOV PERI: [translated] Then we investigated and found out that since 1978 to 1979 they were planning an attack on the Temple Mount to blow up the Dome of the Rock.

CARMI GILLON: [translated] At first, the idea was based on the belief that as long as the « abomination » stood over the site of the Jewish temple, there will be no Redemption; and therefore, they have to get rid of that dome. They prepared the bombs. They used a very sensitive type of explosive, Semtex. It was planned by Menachem Livni, who was a demolitions genius. The charges would be placed so that the entire force of the explosion would be directed at the support structure. This would result in the collapse of the dome. The consequence of blowing up the Dome of the Rock, even today, is that it could lead to total war by all the Islamic states, not just the Arab states, not just Iran, Indonesia too, against the state of Israel.

AARON MATÉ: That clip, from The Gatekeepers. Dror Moreh, this plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock?

DROR MOREH: You want me to have to tell you what happened there?

AARON MATÉ: Please, yes.

DROR MOREH: Well, I think that people should go to the movie and see that. It’s important. But look, the far-right extremism in Israel is the biggest danger to anything that moves towards peace. Those religious fanatics are willing to sacrifice everything in the name of God, in the name of their beliefs. And this is one of the most horrible incident in Israel’s history, the fact that people were willing to blow up the Dome of the Rock in order to stop the—it was when the peace process with Egypt, by the way. This was the aim of that. They wanted to blow up the Dome of the Rock as a preemptive that Israel will not withdraw from Sinai and create the peace with Egypt.

By the way, the head of Shin Bet, Dichter—this is not in the movie—said to me that in 2005, prior to the disengagement plan, which uprooted the settlements in Gaza, the fanatics, the extreme right-wing fanatics in Israel, were willing to blow up again the Dome of the Rock, and the threat over the dome was much more extensive than during the time of the Jewish Underground. And another plan was to assassinate the prime minister, the Prime Minister Sharon. And they know that if something will move towards peace, if there is something that can prevent that from happening, there is two things: Either they assassinate the prime minister, or either they will blow up one of the holy places to the Islam.

AARON MATÉ: Well, on this issue of fanatics, I want to ask you about the recent elections. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now working on putting together a coalition.

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AARON MATÉ: And he’s going to have to include some pretty far-right groups.

DROR MOREH: Well, I would say—

AARON MATÉ: What’s your reaction to the election and—

DROR MOREH: I think that the last elections have proven that the Israeli public is much more smarter than the leaders. I think that—the way that I look at it, Netanyahu wanted to do that. Netanyahu wanted, before the elections, to move towards the extreme right, but the Israeli public said to him very, very clearly, « You cannot do that. You have to go to the center. » And by voting 19 members of the Knesset to the new—there is a future group. They told him very clearly, « You are the only candidate now in Israel. There is nobody who—there’s nobody who opposes you. So—but you cannot do that with the far extreme right; you have to go to the center. »

And this is what seems to be the case now. He’s negotiating with this center parties, and I hope that this was what happen. I don’t have any trust in Netanyahu. Netanyahu, for me, is something that is the most dangerous person in terms of the peace and in terms of Israel. But I think that the Israeli public have sent him a very clear message in that election.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking on Democracy Now! in 2006, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami—

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —said that the former prime minister, the man who was assassinated, Yitzhak Rabin, never expected that Oslo would result in a creation of a Palestinian state.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Arafat in Oslo reached an agreement that didn’t even mention the right of self-determination for the Palestinians, doesn’t even mention the need of the Israelis to put an end to settlements. If the Israelis, after Oslo, continued expansion of settlements, they were violating the spirit of Oslo, not the letter of Oslo. There is nothing in the Oslo agreement that says that Israelis cannot build settlements. …

It was an exercise in make-believe. The Palestinians didn’t even mention self-determination so a leader like Rabin could have thought that, OK, we will have an agreement that will create something which is a state-minus. This was Rabin’s expression. He never thought this will end in a full-fledged Palestinian state.

AARON MATÉ: That was former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami speaking on Democracy Now! in 2006. Now, of course, Rabin was assassinated by Israeli extremists.

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AARON MATÉ: And I want to ask about that in a second, but the reason that we played this clip is because there’s a concern amongst many people that even within—that within the confines of mainstream Israeli politics, that there’s not the will to meet the minimal demands of Palestinians.

DROR MOREH: Absolutely.

AARON MATÉ: So, in your film, like there’s some great reverence for Rabin, and I understand that, but here you have the former foreign minister of Israel saying that even Rabin, who was at the—who was known as this man of peace, even he, himself, was not prepared to allow for a Palestinian state through the peace process.

DROR MOREH: I don’t know. I cannot speak in the name of Shlomo Ben-Ami, and I cannot speak in the name of Rabin. What I know is that the settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace. If there is something that will prevent peace, it’s the settlement and the settlers. They are the biggest obstacle to the peace process, to maintain or to continue. And I think this is the most largest and most influential and most powerful group in Israeli politics. They’re basically dictating the policy of Israel in the last years. I think that definitely for the Palestinians, the settlements are the worst enemy in the way—in their way to the homeland. When they see everywhere, in Judea and Samaria now, the settlements that are built like mushroom after rain, they see how their country is shrinking.

And for me, I am much more bleaker than those—the heads of the Shin Bet: I think that we have reached the point of no return. I don’t see a leader in Israel, definitely not the current one, who can weigh on his back the weight that—of the thing that needs to be done in order to reach peace: basically, to dismantle those settlements. And it’s tragic.

AARON MATÉ: What if—so, what will make the difference? If there’s no one in Israeli—in the Israeli mainstream who can do it, would a change in U.S. policy influence things?

DROR MOREH: Absolutely. I think that at the end of the day, unless Barack Obama—and I hope that in his last term, for the last four years—you know, he doesn’t have to be re-elected now—if he doesn’t force it, if he doesn’t come to both sides, by the way—the Palestinian are as weak as the Israelis, the leadership, although in the Palestinian Authority, the people, Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad, are really pro-peace—this is what I feel. They say that they are renouncing terror. In the last—two days ago, there was an article in Israel that the last year was the cleanest year in terms of terrorist attacks in Israel. No Israeli died from terror attack coming from the West Bank. So, unless Barack Obama will come up, I would say, with an iron fist of 20 megaton in one hand and with a carrot on the other hand, and would say to them, « This is the deal. Take it or leave it. If you will take it, you will get this carrot. If you will not take it, you will get this iron fist, » nothing will happen on the ground. On the contrary, the thing will continue to deteriorate, and violence will prevail again.

AARON MATÉ: Have you tried to show this film to President Obama?

DROR MOREH: I wish that he will see that. I think that he can learn—I don’t know, how can I try to do that? Maybe if you can help me, I will be more than happy. I think that it shows for him a description of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, from the people who were most responsible to maintain that conflict, from people—from the security chiefs of the Israeli defense establishment, something that has not been done up until now together.

AMY GOODMAN: Dror Moreh, you have all six surviving former heads of Shin Bet.

DROR MOREH: Absolutely, all of them.

AMY GOODMAN: All critical—

DROR MOREH: All of them, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —ultimately, of the occupation.

DROR MOREH: All of them. All of things—

AMY GOODMAN: One of them you interviewed in the office when he was head of Shin Bet.

DROR MOREH: Of Shin Bet, yeah, in the Shin Bet headquarter.

AMY GOODMAN: What most surprised you in these interviews?

DROR MOREH: Well, I was shocked, believe me, 17 times, each interview, from what they told me. But the main thing I—what I felt was most surprising is how sober they are, how pragmatic they are, and how they see the fact that the leadership is not able to sustain the conflict, is not able to create a way out of that. This is something that they felt very strongly that they have to come against that. The fact that they served 45 years, more than that, in the service of the security of Israel, and they feel today that their work was in vain, in a way, because it didn’t lead Israel towards a better political solution. And this is the—

AMY GOODMAN: What was the quote that most surprised you?

DROR MOREH: A lot of them, a lot of the quotes. But basically, I would turn to what Ami Ayalon said when he came—when he was a young boy, he thought that there is a house in Jerusalem, and in that house there is a smart man—namely, Ben-Gurion. And he fix. He take care of us, of the Israelis. And when he grew up, he came to that house, he walked that corridor, he went beyond the door, and he saw that beyond that door there is no one who is thinking for us. And this is something that, you know, as a person who lives in a state like that, you think that the prime minister knows everything and takes the right decisions. After that movie, I’m much more desperate from—because I heard what they think about the leaders of Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s Ayalon who said—

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —the former Shin Bet head who said he realized there’s no one there—

DROR MOREH: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: —talking about Netanyahu.

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, there is a fascinating thing that is going on right now, which is of the five Oscar-nominated films, two are made by Israelis.

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Joining The Gatekeepers in the nominees for best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards is another film also critical of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; it’s called 5 Broken Cameras. It tells the story of Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who got a video camera to record his son’s childhood but ended up documenting the growth of a resistance movement to the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. The film shows the nonviolent tactics used by residents of Bil’in as they join with international and Israeli activists to protest the wall’s construction and confront Israeli soldiers. Here, the co-director of 5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat, is arrested at night by Israeli forces who declare his home to be a « Closed Military Zone. »

ISRAELI POLICE: [translated] Open up!

EMAD BURNAT: [translated] Now it’s my turn. I take the camera to protect myself.

ISRAELI POLICE: [translated] I ask you to stop filming.

EMAD BURNAT: [translated] I can film in my own house.

ISRAELI POLICE: [translated] Show me your ID.

EMAD BURNAT: [translated] Get my ID. What’s the matter?

ISRAELI POLICE: [translated] This is a Closed Military Zone. « The military has declared this area a Closed Military Zone. Anyone found in a Closed Military Zone must evacuate the area at once. No one can enter or remain on the premises. » You are now in violation of that order. I ask you to stop filming.

EMAD BURNAT: [translated] I am a journalist. I can film.

ISRAELI POLICE: [translated] This is a Closed Military Zone. Stop filming. Put down the camera.

EMAD BURNAT: [translated] I am a journalist, and I’m in my own home.

ISRAELI POLICE: [translated] Put down the camera. That is an order. Turn the lens to the wall. Give it to your son. He can put it down.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of 5 Broken Cameras, another of the five Oscar-nominated films, both made by Israeli filmmakers. This 5 Broken Cameras named for the fact that Emad Burnat, the Palestinian who’s trying to—started by filming his kid’s childhood, all five cameras were broken by the Israeli military occupation of his town in Bil’in. This is fascinating, Dror, that both of you, coming with different perspectives, but ultimately critical of the occupation, are going to be in the Oscars. What has been the reception to yours, and both these films?

DROR MOREH: First of all, I think that it’s an amazing fact that a country which is small like Israel, only seven million people, have produced two documentaries that have been nominated for the—in the last five nomination for the Oscars. I think it shows that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is alive. I think, of course, it’s a big interest all around the world and that there’s really amazing Israeli filmmakers who are coming and portraying that, although in Israel the people are not—well, they don’t deal with that as much as I think they should in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are a nation that become living in denial.

I think that it shows that—Emad’s film is an amazing film. It shows that the Israeli—the Israeli documentary scene is really, really vibrant. It thinks about the problems that deal—that the Israelis are dealing with and want to change that. And the best way to change that is by creating documentaries, by creating those films that are accessible to the public.

My film opened three weeks ago in Israel. You know, in Israel, there’s not a lot of audience for documentaries. We opened in two art houses in Israel, the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv, Cinematheque in Jerusalem. A week after that, we moved to seven cinemas. Now we are in 15 cinemas. Even the big multiplexes have acquired the rights to show the film. It is sold out. And a lot of Israelis are coming to see that film. And I’m very, very happy for that, because I think that this is the way to show the Israeli people how the mirror effect of their life looks like in the reality, not in what they have been told in the government television.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Dror Moreh—

DROR MOREH: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: —for joining us, Israeli filmmaker, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Gatekeepers.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we go to Seattle, where a major protest is going on among teachers against standardized tests. Stay with us.

Voir encore:

Décès de Stéphane Hessel

Richard pasquier

27 février 2013

Crif  (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France)

Le CRIF a appris le décès de Stéphane Hessel à l’âge de 95 ans.

Il est de notoriété publique que nous étions très opposés à ses prises de position, notamment à sa volonté obsessionnelle de faire de Gaza l’épicentre de l’injustice dans ce monde et du Hamas un mouvement pacifique, quasiment d’assistance sociale, contrastant avec son indifférence aux tragédies humaines et aux crimes de masse qui se déroulent de nos jours dans un silence général.

Il est vrai que nous étions stupéfaits par sa propension à grandir ou à laisser grandir par ses thuriféraires dévoués, le rôle qu’il avait tenu dans plusieurs événements importants de notre histoire ainsi que par la volonté des médias de ne pas relayer ses déclarations sur la bénignité de l’occupation nazie en France qui, émises par tout autre que lui, auraient soulevé l’indignation.

Il va sans dire que nous étions effarés par le succès de son fascicule d’une indigente indignation.

Nous pensons que la mise au pavois de Stéphane Hessel, malgré ses accommodements avec la vérité historique et sa faiblesse argumentative, en dit beaucoup sur le désarroi intellectuel de notre société et sur le rôle aberrant qu’y joue le marketing des individus qu’on transforme à bas prix en luminaires idéologiques.

Stéphane Hessel fut avant tout un maître à ne pas penser.

Son grand âge, son sourire, son apparente ingénuité, son indignation focalisée et ses poèmes surannés évoquaient un monde angélique, mais pavaient la route, certainement sans qu’il le voulût lui-même, aux véritables criminels tapis derrière l’enfer des bonnes intentions.

Le travail de déconstruction de Stéphane Hessel sera effectué. Mais en ce jour de sa mort, nous voulons aussi retenir de lui qu’il fut un résistant courageux, un contributeur, modeste, mais réel, à la lutte pour les droits de l’Homme (y compris à l’époque des refuzniks) et un amoureux passionné des lettres françaises.

Voir encore:

Iran’s Global Business Is Murder Inc.

Bombings in capital cities, kidnappings, trade in drugs and guns—Iranian exports, all. Now Tehran wants nukes.

Michael Oren

The WSJ

February 11, 2013

A bomb explodes in Burgas, Bulgaria, leaving five Israeli tourists and a local driver dead. Mysteriously marked ammunition kills countless Africans in civil wars. Conspirators plot to blow up a crowded cafe and an embassy in Washington, D.C. A popular prime minister is assassinated, and a despised dictator stays in power by massacring his people by the tens of thousands.

Apart from their ruthlessness, these events might appear unrelated. And yet the dots are inextricably linked. The connection is Iran.

In 25 cities across five continents, community centers, consulates, army barracks and houses of worship have been targeted for destruction. Thousands have been killed. The perpetrators are agents of Hezbollah and the Quds Force, sometimes operating separately and occasionally in unison. All take their orders from Tehran.

Hezbollah’s relationship with Tehran is « a partnership arrangement with Iran as the senior partner, » says America’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper. The Lebanon-based terror group provides the foot soldiers necessary for realizing Iran’s vision of a global Islamic empire. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah says his organization was founded to forge « a greater Islamic republic governed by the Master of Time [the Mahdi] and his rightful deputy, the jurisprudent Imam of Iran. »

With funding, training and weapons from Iran, Hezbollah terrorists have killed European peacekeepers, foreign diplomats and thousands of Lebanese, among them Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. They have hijacked American, French and Kuwaiti airliners and kidnapped and executed officials from several countries. They are collaborating in Bashar Assad’s slaughter of opposition forces in Syria today.

Second only to al Qaeda, Hezbollah has murdered more Americans—at least 266—than any other terrorist group. The United States designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 1997, though the European Union has yet to do so.

Above all, Hezbollah strives to kill Jews. It has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians and tried to assassinate Israeli diplomats in at least six countries. Its early 1990s bombing of a Jewish community center and the Israeli Embassy in Argentina killed 115.

The attack in Burgas occurred last July, and this month the Bulgarian government completed a thorough inquiry into who was behind it: Hezbollah. « The finding is clear and unequivocal, » said John Kerry in one of his first pronouncements as U.S. secretary of state. « We strongly urge other governments around the world—and particularly our partners in Europe—to take immediate action and to crack down on Hezbollah. »

Then there is the Quds Force, the elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which takes orders directly from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The U.S. has repeatedly accused the Quds Force of helping insurgents kill American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of supplying weapons to terrorists in Yemen, Sudan and Syria. In 2007, Quds Force operatives tried to blow up two Israeli jetliners in Kenya and kill Israel’s ambassador in Nairobi.

Hezbollah and the Quds Force also traffic in drugs, ammunition and even cigarettes. Such illicit activities might seem disparate but they, too, are connected to terror and to Tehran.

In 2011, the New York Times reported that Hezbollah was working with South American drug lords to smuggle narcotics into Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The terror group laundered its hundreds of millions of dollars in profits through used-car dealerships in America.

Also in 2011, the FBI exposed a plot in which senior Quds Force operatives conspired with members of Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington by bombing the restaurant where he dined. The Israeli Embassy in Washington was also targeted. The middleman between the terrorists and the drug dealers was an Iranian-American used-car salesman.

And still the dots proliferate. U.S. authorities have implicated Hezbollah in the sale of contraband cigarettes in North Carolina, and Iran has manufactured and sold millions of rounds of ammunition to warring armies in Africa. So while skirting Western sanctions, Iran funds terror world-wide.

But Iran’s rulers are counting on the West’s inability to see the larger pattern. Certainly the European Union would take a crucial step forward by designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but terror is only one pixel.

Tehran is enriching uranium and rushing to achieve military nuclear capabilities. If it succeeds, the ayatollahs’ vision of an Islamic empire could crystallize.

Iran and its proxies have already dotted the world with murderous acts. They need only nuclear weapons to complete the horrific picture.

Mr. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Voir enfin:

Terrorism: Israel’s Payback Principle (extraits)
David Margolick
Vanity Fair
January 2003

traduit par Danilette

Le 26 septembre dernier [2002] en fin de matinée, Mohamed Deif [Mohamed Diab al-Masri signifiant l’Egyptien], le chef de l’aile armée du Hamas, le cerveau de nombreux attentats suicides, fusillades, enlèvements, assassinats, et autres actes de terreur qui ont tué des dizaines d’Israéliens au cours des dix dernières années, et l’homme le plus recherché du pays, était finalement dans la ligne de mire. Aucun autre terroriste palestinien n’a échappé aux Israéliens aussi longtemps, il a échappé quatre fois à une tentative d’élimination et à chaque fois il a réussi à s’échapper en s’enfonçant si bien dans la clandestinité que toutes les photos existantes de lui étaient inexploitables. Six ans auparavant, Deif était considéré comme suffisamment important pour que les Israéliens demandent à Arafat de le leur livrer ; « Mohamed qui » ? aurait répliqué Arafat, comme s’il n’avait jamais entendu parler de lui. […]

Le 26 septembre, grâce sans aucun doute aux renseignements fournis par leur réseau complexe de collaborateurs palestiniens, les Israéliens savaient exactement où se trouvait Deif : assis du coté droit du siège arrière d’une Mercedes jaune, roulant dans le quartier encombré de Cheik Radwan. Non seulement ils l’avaient localisé et avaient marqué son véhicule au repérage laser, ils avaient également un hélicoptère Apache tournant au-dessus de lui à une si haute altitude que Deif ne s’en doutait pas. Aux alentours de midi, un tir de deux missiles anti-tank atteint la voiture qui fut transformée sur-le-champ en une épave tordue et fumante. La nouvelle fut immédiatement transmise au Cabinet israélien, qui attendait dans les anciens locaux de David Ben Gourion à Tel-Aviv. Le Premier ministre Sharon, qui avait approuvé l’opération, réserva son avis, mais le Ministre des Affaires Etrangères Shimon Peres était plus optimiste, « il est déjà mort » dit-il.

Les deux autres passagers de la voiture, les gardes du corps de Deif, eux l’étaient. Quelque 43 passants, y compris 15 écoliers, étaient blessés. Et Deif ? Un film pris immédiatement après, par une équipe de télévision d’Abou Dhabi, révèle un homme en sang, brûlé mais encore vivant, que l’on retire du véhicule. En moins de quelques heures, les services secrets israéliens apprendront que Deif bien que brûlé et ayant perdu un œil a encore une fois survécu. Il ne fallut pas longtemps à Israël pour se préparer en vue des inévitables représailles. […]

Pour Israël, « les éliminations ciblées » sont aussi anciennes que le Talmud qui dit « si quelqu’un s’approche pour te tuer, tue-le d’abord » L’histoire de cet état de 54 ans est émaillée d’actions de ce genre, avec parfois des trésors d’ingéniosité à la James Bond et des actions d’éclat.

Les Israéliens ont toujours été tranquillement fiers de celles-ci et en même temps se demandent s’ils désirent ou s’ils doivent faire de telles actions. Après tout, Israël n’a effectivement pas de peine capitale et n’a exécuté qu’un seul homme : Adolf Eichman, le bureaucrate allemand qui a entassé les Juifs dans des wagons à bestiaux pour les envoyer dans les camps de la mort. […]

En 1955 le philosophe israélien Yishayahu Leibowitz s’est plaint dans une lettre à Ben Gourion, le Premier ministre israélien, du sort de Palestiniens innocents tués dans des opérations israéliennes. « J’ai reçu votre lettre et je ne suis pas d’accord avec vous » répondit Ben Gourion. « Si je devais mettre en balance tous les idéaux humains d’un coté et la sécurité d’Israël de l’autre, je choisirais la sécurité d’Israël, car s’il est important qu’il y ait un monde rempli de paix, de fraternité, de justice et d’honnêteté, il est encore plus important que nous en fassions partie ». […]

Les Israéliens disent qu’ils se concentrent sur les kamikazes eux-mêmes et ceux qui leur préparent les bombes ou leurs commanditaires mais que les arrestations sont toujours préférables. Les prisonniers, surtout les jeunes kamikazes potentiels, craquent facilement et deviennent une source majeure d’informations. Les arrestations, au contraire des meurtres, sont réversibles. Et les arrestations ne produisent pas de shahids (martyrs).

Techniquement, certaines de ces opérations sont éblouissantes, mettant en jeu des objets piégés cachés en pleine vue et dont la mise à feu est télécommandée. Quelque unes impliquent des unités d’élite dans lesquelles des Israéliens se déguisent en arabes, « ils savent comment les Arabes prient à la mosquée, comment ils boivent leurs cafés, comment ils se grattent les testicules », dit un Israélien qui pendant des années a suivi les questions de sécurité. Beaucoup font appel à des technologies sophistiquées comme les drones et les ballons de surveillance de haute altitude équipés de télescopes. […]

Elles peuvent impliquer jusqu’à 200 personnes mais même des opérations qui semblent simples sont étonnamment complexes. « Il faut un hélicoptère dans les airs, il faut au moins deux sources pour vérifier que la cible est bien dans la voiture ; il faut évaluer les dommages collatéraux ; il faut suivre la trace du véhicule qui se déplace ; il faut choisir la position, il faut être sûr que la personne ciblée n’a pas quitté la voiture entre temps, ce qui arrive souvent ; il faut assurer que les agents sur le terrain n’auront pas de problèmes » explique Ehud Ya’ari, qui couvre les affaires arabes pour la 2ème chaîne israélienne et pour le Jérusalem Report. « chacune d’elles est une mini guerre avec une salle de contrôle. » […]

Dans cette campagne, l’implication du Shin Bet, la version israélienne du FBI, qui fournit à l’armée la plupart de ses informations est au moins aussi importante que celle de l’armée. Equipés de dispositifs d’écoute, les agents et les informateurs qui ont infiltré chaque couche de la société palestinienne (la plus dangereuse cellule du Hamas à Naplouse travaillait sous couvert d’un magasin de vêtements appartenant à un Palestinien employé par le Shin Bet) ont dévoilé une liste importante de cibles, certaines dans la clandestinité depuis des années, d’autres qui étaient supposées être dans les prisons palestiniennes. La plupart du temps, le Shin Bet sait à l’avance quel poseur de bombes est sur le point d’agir, à quel date et quelle est l’origine de la bombe. L’organisation a déjoué des quantités d’attentats, y compris sept durant une période de 10 jours pour le mois d’octobre seulement. Plus de 3000 activistes palestiniens ont été emprisonnés durant ces deux dernières années, y compris 160 kamikazes capturés avant qu’ils n’activent leurs détonateurs. (Israël ne laisse plus désormais de journalistes parler à aucun d’entre eux. Selon Daniel Seaman, le directeur du bureau de presse du gouvernement israélien : « certains d’entre eux avaient dans les interviews fait passer des messages codés. D’autres paraissaient trop héroïques et pouvaient faire des émules. D’autres encore sont experts en manipulation perverse ». Selon Seaman, Alfred Hitchcock avait raison : il ne montrait jamais de violence, laissant les spectateurs imaginer quelque chose de bien pire. Je préfère que les gens s’en fassent une image de monstres plutôt que de jeunes défendant une cause » dit Seaman.

Pour un œil américain, le Shin Bet (connu en Israël aussi comme le Shabak) est extrêmement inhabituel : une agence de renseignements qui fonctionne réellement et, ce qui est encore plus remarquable, ne s’en vante pas, même en privé. […]

Les assassinats ciblés, dit Ehud Yaari, sont le seul outil vraiment efficace car ils donnent aux terroristes le sentiment de se sentir surveillés, examinés, exposés, déconcertés, sous-expérimentés et vulnérables. Avec les couvre-feu et les démolitions de maisons appartenant aux familles des kamikazes, ces opérations font que des terroristes potentiels reconsidèrent leurs plans. Ce n’est pas parce qu’ils ne veulent pas nous tuer ou qu’ils cessent de nous haïr mais ils y réfléchissent à deux fois ». Même Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, le porte-parole du Hamas reconnaît que le fait de décimer les hauts responsables rendent les choses beaucoup plus difficiles pour les « combattants » du Hamas, du moins jusqu’à ce qu’ils se réorganisent. […]

La plupart des américains ne furent pas directement touchés par les évènements du 11 septembre, en dépit du terrible carnage de ce jour-là. Mais le terrorisme affecte chaque Israélien chaque jour. Des Israéliens évitent les autobus ou ne les utilisent pas pour leurs enfants ou roulent en restant à bonne distance de ceux-ci. Ils font leurs courses dans des centres commerciaux parce que la sécurité y est plus grande ou les évitent parce qu’ils ne sont pas sûrs. Ils ne mangent que dans des restaurants avec des vigiles de sécurité (un « service de sécurité » est désormais ajouté à chaque facture comme contribution à leur salaire) ou bien ils commandent des plats à emporter –et c’est une nouveauté désagréable pour ce pays compulsivement social.

Israël est un petit pays avec moins de juifs que Hitler n’en a tués en Europe. Et quand une tragédie éclate, ce pays où tout le monde connaît tout le monde peut sembler aussi claustrophobe que dans les petites communautés où autrefois vivaient les Juifs d’Europe avant d’être exterminés. Peu importe le rang ou les privilèges, tout le monde connaît quelqu’un qui a été tué ou estropié. Tout le monde est touché par la plus indicible des tragédies.

Nathan Cherny, un oncologiste que j’ai rencontré à Jérusalem, m’a cité sa propre liste de victimes : Malka Roth, 15ans, la fille d’un de ses amis, tuée à la pizzeria Sbarro. Avi Boaz, 71 ans, le mari d’une de ses patientes, assassiné par les Brigades des Martyrs Al-Aqsa une semaine à peine après le décès de sa femme d’un cancer. Shmuel Gillis, un collègue hématologiste de 42 ans et père de 5 enfants, abattu alors qu’il conduisait pour rentrer à la maison. Eran Picard, le fils de 18 ans d’un autre collègue, tué dans son école à Gaza . Shiri Negari, la sœur âgée de 21 ans de l’un de ses étudiants en médecine, tuée dans l’explosion d’un autobus. Iman Kabha, le camarade de chambre arabe israélien d’un autre de ses étudiants, est mort dans le même autobus. Gal Eisenman, la fillette de 5 ans d’un ami docteur, tuée dans un attentat à la bombe à un arrêt d’autobus à Jérusalem. Puis il y a Jonathan, un patient de Cherny âgé de 19 ans, souffrant d’un stade avancé de cancer. Il n’a pas été tué, mais s’étant trouvé trop près du kamikaze dans l’attentat du centre commercial Ben Yehuda, il s’est retrouvé avec une main pulvérisée et un boulon d’acier dans le scrotum.

Personne n’est protégé ni même le Docteur Cherny qui avait l’habitude de recevoir des patients palestiniens sans honoraire, de leur donner des médicaments gratuitement et –avant que cela ne devienne trop dangereux- de faire des visites à domicile chez eux en Cisjordanie [Judée Samarie]. Il risque autant qu’un autre d’être pulvérisé par une bombe. Les dangers sont « partout, pernicieux et intolérables » dit-il ; il approuve complètement qu’on tue ceux qui en sont responsables, car « le danger est vraiment réel et malfaisant ». […]

Le sionisme promettait aux Juifs, qui ont vécu en danger pendant des siècles, une terre de normalité. Le fondateur du sionisme politique, Théodore Herzl, formulait sa vision célèbre d’une terre non seulement de génies juifs mais aussi de policiers juifs et même de prostituées juives, où les Juifs pourraient vivre comme tout le monde. Pendant les grisantes années 90 des accords de paix d’Oslo, cet objectif semblait être à portée de main. Et avec la paix est venue la prospérité : une culture de loisirs et d’abondance a remplacé graduellement les années de socialisme spartiate.

Désormais, la « normalité » en Israël ne peut survivre que par des moyens extraordinairement anormaux. J’étais là en octobre quand le Général Uri Bar Lev de la police israélienne, dans un exposé à ses collègues, passait en revue l’arsenal de soldats, tireurs d’élite, soldats du génie, policiers, personnels d’hôpital, chiens, détecteurs de métaux, barrages routiers, hélicoptères, matériel pour neutraliser les bombes, bicyclettes, motos, et bus qui lui semblait nécessaire pour protéger d’un attentat, 25 000 scouts se rassemblant dans le square Rabin à Tel-Aviv. […]

Désormais Israël contredit Herzl : Comme les récents épisodes terroristes ailleurs dans le monde (Bali et à Moscou) l’ont mis en évidence, ce qui passe pour « normal » en Israël est rapidement en train de devenir normal partout ailleurs. Début novembre, au Yémen, quand un avion prédateur américain élimina un responsable d’Al-Qaïda et cinq personnes avec lui, les Américains, malgré toutes leurs condamnations antérieures des assassinats ciblés et leurs efforts pour s’en démarquer, ont appliqué cette même méthode.

A l’époque du Mandat britannique, un Arabe palestinien avait violé et tué une Juive d’un Kibboutz, puis il avait revendiqué son acte comme un acte patriotique. Des membres du Palmach, le groupe armé de défense pré-étatique, le poursuivirent et le tuèrent. Après la création de l’état en 1948, les opérations continuèrent. Auréolés par le mythe, confus et embellis par les années, les détails de celles-ci sont souvent vagues. Dans une des opérations qui a le plus frappé les esprits, une bombe explosa lorsque l’attaché militaire égyptien ouvrit une biographie du Maréchal allemand Gerd Von Rundstedt. Similairement, dans le début des années 1960, le Mossad –qui au contraire du Shin Bet, s’occupe de renseignements en dehors d’Israël et des territoires occupés- a envoyé des lettres piégées aux scientifiques allemands qui travaillaient sur le programme de roquettes égyptien. Au moins cinq personnes furent tuées.

Encore plus célèbre, sur les ordres de Golda Meir, alors Premier ministre, Israël rechercha systématiquement et tua tous les terroristes responsables du massacre des Jeux Olympiques de Munich en 1972, excepté un ou deux, dans lequel les membres du mouvement d’Arafat, Septembre Noir, assassinèrent 11 athlètes israéliens. […]

Quand Arafat et Yitzhak Rabin se sont serré la main sur la pelouse de la Maison Blanche en 1993, la nécessité de l’assassinat politique a sans doute disparu. Egalement aussi, la capacité des renseignements d’Israël dans les territoires occupés ; son réseau d’informateurs a été décimé. Mais comme le terrorisme a persisté et que l’Autorité palestinienne a refusé de poursuivre ceux que les Israéliens rendaient responsables, le Shin Bet a commencé à reconstruire son système d’informateurs.

Dans le domaine des renseignements, ce que le Shin Bet a accompli depuis, est stupéfiant. « Pour les victimes de la terreur et pour la population en général, les attentats suicides semblent imprévisibles », dit Amir Oren, le correspondant des affaires militaires pour Ha’aretz. « Ils semblent surgir du néant ; n’importe qui –le jardinier qui vient juste de vous sourire, le type qui monte dans l’autobus, la fille qui vient juste d’entrer au restaurant- peuvent se révéler être des terroristes. Cela ressemble une catastrophe naturelle difficilement contrôlable. Mais pour les professionnels, qui ont accompli la tache exécrable d’apprendre qui est qui, et quoi est quoi, dans le moindre village de Cisjordanie, dans chaque immeuble des camps de réfugiés de Gaza, quels sont les liens de famille entre les différentes personnes, qui a fréquenté une école religieuse et avec qui, cela ne ressemble pas à une masse de Palestiniens anonymes du tout. »

A l’automne 2000, le Premier ministre Ehud Barak –qui jeune membre d’un commando en 1973 se déguisa en femme pour une mission mouvementée à Beyrouth qui tua trois des terroristes du massacre des Jeux Olympiques- a réactivé la politique d’assassinats ciblés. Malgré toutes leurs imperfections, conclut-il, ils étaient le moyen le plus clair, le plus sûr, le plus efficace de s’occuper des terroristes suicides. « C’est quelque chose que chaque gouvernement de bon sens ferait », m’a-t-il déclaré dans un entretien à New York, « il existe deux mauvaises options, l’une c’est de frapper ce type avec ses propres armes, spécialement dans une optique à long terme ou l’autre qui est d’attendre et contempler sa population exploser ». […]

Le bureau de l’officier responsable de la presse, le Brigadier Général Ruth Yaron, se trouve dans un bâtiment couleur kaki juste à l’extérieur de la Kirya, le quartier général du Ministère de la Défense à Tel Aviv. Il date du mandat britannique et cela se voit. L’endroit personnifie le peu d’importance que l’armée israélienne a accordé traditionnellement aux relations publiques. Fonctionnel il est vrai mais mal entretenu, avec une vieille chaise jetée sans cérémonie près de la porte d’entrée. Avant, l’armée pensait qu’elle avait d’autres choses à faire que de se vendre au reste du monde, en particulier puisque le monde n’était pas particulièrement réceptif. En haut des escaliers, accrochées n’importe comment à côté d’un arbre en plastique, se trouvent les photos des prédécesseurs de Yaron. Il y a là des personnages basanés et romantiques de l’Exodus ; d’autres ressemblent à des professeurs de l’Université de Chicago. Tous sont des hommes.

Yaron, 45 ans, qui est née en Algérie et est arrivée en Israël à l’âge de 4 ans, est la première femme, la première diplomate et la première civile nommée à ce poste. S’exprimant bien, elle a l’air d’une femme d’affaires et symbolise la reconnaissance tardive par l’armée de l’importance de l’opinion publique après les accusations injustes, portées contre Israël, d’un massacre de Palestiniens à Jénine.

Faire accepter l’élimination ciblée, concède-t-elle, n’est pas facile. « Les explications sont complexes, impossibles à faire passer dans un bref extrait d’interview. Les journalistes de télévision reviendront toujours aux pauvres Palestiniens et aux méchants Israéliens. Mais ce qu’ils ne disent pas c’est qu’un « pauvre palestinien » kamikaze peut tuer beaucoup de « méchants israéliens » ».

Les Israéliens ne laisseront aucun journaliste être présent au cours d’une opération. A la place, Yaron me met en relation avec Gira Eiland, un général israélien impliqué dans la supervision des éliminations ciblées. Il m’explique que plusieurs conditions doivent être requises. Premièrement, la personne doit être suffisamment importante. Cela veut dire le poseur de bombes ou quelqu’un qui facilite son action ou bien le recruteur ou celui qui fabrique les bombes. Deuxièmement, il faut que l’arrestation soit impossible. Troisièmement, l’élimination doit neutraliser une menace spécifique, en d’autres mots ne pas être le châtiment d’actes passés. Quatrièmement, les Israéliens doivent être surs qu’ils frappent la bonne cible. Jusqu’à présent, insiste-t-il cela a toujours été le cas. (le Groupe Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring, prétend qu’en juillet 2001 les Israéliens ont tué Moustafa Yassin au lieu de Muhammad Yassin et en octobre Mohamed Abayat au lieu de Nasser Abayat. Israël n’a reconnu aucun des deux.) Cinquièmement, dit-il, le risque de toucher des civils doit être bas. Malgré toute la mauvaise presse faite à Israël, au moins 80 pour cent des objectifs n’impliquaient pas de civils du tout. Et sixièmement, c’est la question du timing. Ce qui veut dire qu’une opération ne sera pas poursuivie si cela doit outrager les Américains ou faire la une sur CNN ou sur la BBC. Le général, une personne au ton délibérément posé, a perdu son calme seulement quand je lui ai demandé si certaines éliminations ont en fait provoqué de nouvelles attaques. « Il n’y a pas de rapport entre les deux », répond-il catégoriquement, « ils essaieront de lancer autant d’opérations qu’ils peuvent, quoi que l’on fasse ». […]

De nombreuses organisations étrangères (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, la Croix Rouge Internationale) fulminent contre la politique d’assassinats ciblés. Les Israéliens sont largement défiants. « Notre histoire nous montre que nous sommes toujours jugés avec un standard différent, plus élevé, que nous avons à répondre à des questions jamais posées à d’autres nationalités », dit le Brigadier Général Yaron. Israël dit-elle, est en train de vivre une nouvelle guerre d’indépendance et n’utilise pas un dixième de la puissance en sa possession. « D’autres démocraties ne se posent même pas les questions d’éthique que nous nous posons », dit-elle.

Les critiques et pressions pour plus de modération, me dit un autre général israélien, se sont un peu calmé depuis le 11 septembre et la guerre américaine en Afghanistan. « Nous commençons à avoir plus de marge de manœuvre, dit-il. Ils ont compris qu’il n’y a pas de façon complètement propre de combattre le terrorisme, que c’est une guerre sale, que nous avons à utiliser ces instruments. Nous avons pu prendre plus de risques car nous étions moins inquiétés par l’opinion publique ».

Presque chaque jour apporte son lot de nouvelles arrestations, nouveaux incidents, nouvelles tragédies, nouvelles alertes, 57 alertes en une seule matinée au mois de novembre ! La liste des hommes les plus recherché d’Israël continue à se renouveler : les activistes du Hamas se renouvellent tellement rapidement en Cisjordanie, dit Amos Harel du Ha’aretz que même le Hamas ne peut pas suivre. Alors que les groupes sont écrasés, le danger n’est pas tant détruit que dispersé, en particulier depuis que l’apprentissage de fabrication de bombe est disponible facilement sur Internet et dans des manuels qu’on trouve dans chaque village et dans chaque camp de réfugiés. Chaque fois que les Israéliens relâchent leur pression sur Jénine, Naplouse ou Ramallah, il en sort un émissaire meurtrier. Rien, ni même les prochaines élections israéliennes ne semblent pouvoir changer quelque chose rapidement.

Un responsable israélien m’a dit : « quand chaque jour, vous lisez les rapports des renseignements, il faut être très fort pour ne pas perdre la raison ».


De Rome à Pyongyang: Attention, un triomphe peut en cacher un autre (From Rome to Paris, London to St Petersburg, New York to Dehli and Pyongyang, the stones will cry out Titus’s infamous crime)

24 février, 2013
http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~ncureton/pictures/RomanHoliday/images/P1010095.jpgS’ils se taisent, les pierres crieront! Jésus (Luc 19 : 40)
La pierre qu’ont rejetée ceux qui bâtissaient est devenue la principale de l’angle. Psaumes 118: 22
Mardochée ordonna à tous les juifs de célébrer tous les ans le quatorzième et le quinzième jour du douzième mois, en commémoration de ce qu’en ces jours, les Juifs ont eu raison de leurs ennemis ; que les jours de douleur se sont changés en jours de fête, et il recommanda d’en faire des jours de joie et de festin. Les juifs firent des illuminations, des  fêtes joyeuses, des réjouissances et des festins… et s’envoyèrent réciproquement des présents…, et firent des dons aux pauvres. Car Haman, fils d’Hamdatha, de la race d’Agag, persécuteur de tous les juifs, avait eu le projet de les exterminer tous, et il avait jeté des pour c’est-à-dire des sorts  pour connaître le jour qui lui serait le plus favorable pour les anéantir…, c’est pour cela que ces jours de fêtes s’appellent Pourim. Esther 9:20-26
D’après tout le contenu de cette lettre, d’après ce qu’ils avaient eux-mêmes vu et ce qui leur était arrivé, les Juifs prirent pour eux, pour leur postérité, et pour tous ceux qui s’attacheraient à eux, la résolution et l’engagement irrévocables de célébrer chaque année ces deux jours, selon le mode prescrit et au temps fixé. Ces jours devaient être rappelés et célébrés de génération en génération, dans chaque famille, dans chaque province et dans chaque ville; et ces jours de Purim ne devaient jamais être abolis au milieu des Juifs, ni le souvenir s’en effacer parmi leurs descendants. Esther 9: 27-28
[Nous te sommes aussi reconnaissants] pour les miracles, la rédemption, les haut-faits, les actes salvateurs, les merveilles, les consolations et les batailles que Tu as faits pour nos pères en ces jours [et] en ce temps, au temps de Mardochée et Esther dans Suse la capitale, lorsque Haman le mauvais s’est élevé contre eux, qu’il a demandé de détruire, tuer et perdre tous les Juifs, jeunes, vieux, femmes et enfants en un jour, le treizième jour du douzième mois qui est le mois d’adar, et de piller leurs biens. Toi, dans Ta grande miséricorde, Tu as anéanti son conseil, corrompu ses pensées et Tu lui as renvoyé son salaire à la figure. On l’a pendu avec ses fils à l’arbre. Bénédiction spécifique de Pourim
Il n’y a pas de preuve tangible qu’il y ait la moindre trace ou le moindre vestige juif que ce soit dans la vieille ville de Jérusalem ou dans le voisinage immédiat. Communiqué du ministère palestinien de l’Information (10 décembre 1997)
Le mur d’Al-Buraq [Mur des Lamentations] et sa place sont une propriété religieuse musulmane…[Il fait] partie de la mosquée Al Aqsa. Les Juifs n’ont aucun lien avec cet endroit. Mufti de Jérusalem (nommé par Yasser Arafat, Al Ayyam [journal de l’Autorité palestinienne], 22 novembre 1997)
Le mur d’Al-Buraq est une propriété musulmane et fait partie de la mosquée Al Aqsa. Hassan Tahboob (Ministre des Affaires religieuses de Yasser Arafat, dans interview accordée à l’agence de presse, IMRA, le 22 novembre 1997)
Ce n’est pas du tout le mur des Lamentations, mais un sanctuaire musulman. Yasser Arafat (Maariv, 11 octobre 1996)
Tous les événements liés au roi Saul, au roi David et au roi Rehoboam se sont déroulés au Yémen, et aucun vestige hébreu n’a été trouvé en Israël pour la bonne et simple raison qu’ils n’y ont jamais vécu. Jarid al-Kidwa (historien arabe, au cours d’un programme éducatif de l’OLP, juin 1997, cité dans Haaretz le 6 juillet 1997)
Jérusalem n’est pas une ville juive, en dépit du mythe biblique qui a été semé dans certains esprits…Il n’y a pas d’évidence tangible de l’existence juive d’un soi-disant « Temple du mont Era »…on doute de l’emplacement du mont du Temple…il se peut qu’il ait été situé à Jéricho ou ailleurs. Walid Awad (directeur des publications pour l’étranger du ministère de l’Information de l’OLP, interviewé par l’agence de presse IMRA, le 25 décembre 1996)
Abraham n’était pas juif, pas plus que c’était un Hébreu, mais il était tout simplement irakien. Les Juifs n’ont aucun droit de prétendre disposer d’une synagogue dans la tombe des patriarches à Hébron, lieu où est inhumé Abraham. Le bâtiment tout entier devrait être une mosquée. Yasser Arafat (Jerusalem Report, 26 décembre 1996)
[La Shoa] est un mensonge des Sionistes concernant de soi-disant massacres perpétrés contre les Juifs. Al Hayat Al Jadeeda ( journal de l’Autorité palestinienne, 3 septembre 1997)
[Notre but est] d’éliminer l’Etat d’Israël et d’établir un Etat qui soit entièrement palestinien. Yasser Arafat (session privée avec des diplomates arabes en Europe, 30 janvier 1996)
La lutte contre l’ennemi sioniste n’est pas une question de frontières, mais touche à l’existence même de l’entité sioniste. Bassam-abou-Sharif (porte-parole de l’OLP, Kuwait News Agency – Agence de presse koweïtienne, 31 mai 1996)

Attention, un triomphe peut en cacher un autre !

En cette fête des Sorts (Pourim) où nos amis juifs fêtent leur délivrance d’une énième tentative de génocide …

Au moment même où la mémoire et l’existence d’Israël sont à nouveau menacées par le régime terroriste qui sert actuellement de gouvernement aux descendants des mêmes Perses …

Et où tant le Carter noir de la Maison Blanche que le Sauveur de l’Afrique à l’Elysée n’ont d’yeux assez doux pour les nouveaux génocidaires et de mots assez durs pour les descendants de Mardochée et d’Esther qui tentent aujuourd’hui à leur tour d’en éviter la répétition  …

Pendant que nos médias mercenaires prennent un malin plaisir à dénoncer chez les victimes régulièrement désignées à la vindicte publique par le Machin leur « complexe d’Auschwitz » et leur « mentalité du ghetto »…

Quel incroyable retour du refoulé que ces vieilles pierres originellement assemblées pour célèbrer le triomphe des pilleurs du Temple de Jérusalem …

Et qui via leurs multiples imitations à travers les siècles et la planète

Continuent, près de 2000 ans plus tard et  justement sans le savoir, à crier l’ineffaçable premier forfait du général romain Titus et de son père Vespasien

Mais aussi la réalité, aujourd’hui à nouveau niée, tant de l’ancienneté de sa présence continue que de l’existence de son Temple à Jérusalem et en Israël …

Et surtout l’invraisemblable résilience de ce petit peuple comme de ses textes fondateurs

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Arc_de_titus_frontal.jpgLe sénat et le peuple romain au divin Titus Vespasien, Auguste, fils du divin Vespasien.

Titus, Rome, c. 81

Monument, remarquable en termes de religion et d’art,
avait été affaibli par l’âge:
Pie le septième, le souverain pontife,
par de nouveaux travaux sur le modèle de l’exemple antique
l’a commandé, renforcé et préservé.

• L’année de son saint règne le 24 e •

Pius VI, Rome, 1821

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/Entry_of_Napoleon_III_into_Paris_by_Theodore_Jung.jpegValmy Jemmapes Fleurus Montenotte Lodi Castiglione

Arcole Rivoli Les Pyramides Aboukir Alkmaer Zurich

Heliopolis Marengo Hohenliden Ulm Austerlizt Iéna

Friedland Sierra Essling Wagram Moscowa Lutzen

Bleutzen Dresde Hanau Montmirail Montereau Lagny

Napoléon, Paris, 1806

https://i2.wp.com/wpcontent.answcdn.com/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9a/Gapon_u_Narvskoy_zastavy1.jpg/250px-Gapon_u_Narvskoy_zastavy1.jpgAlexander I, Saint-Petersbourg, 1814

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Wellingtonarch2008.jpgGeorge III, Londres, 1825

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1b/Washington_Square_by_Matthew_Bisanz.JPG/391px-Washington_Square_by_Matthew_Bisanz.JPGLet us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.— Washington

William Rhinelander Stewart, New York, 1892

https://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/19582bnew2bdelhi2bindia2bindia2bgate2brajasthan2bcamel2bcorps2brehearsal2bwire2bphoto.jpg?w=300« To the dead of the Indian armies who fell honoured in France and Flanders Mesopotamia and Persia East Africa Gallipoli and elsewhere in the near and the far-east and in sacred memory also of those whose names are recorded and who fell in India or the north-west frontier and during the Third Afghan war. »

George VI, Dehli, 1931

https://i1.wp.com/www.comtourist.com/images/large/north-korea-04/pyongyang-arch-of-triumph-01.jpgKim Il Sung, Pyongyang, 1982


Hommage: Pourquoi Rockwell dut quitter le Saturday Evening Post (Why Rockwell had to leave the Post)

21 février, 2013
Unfinished original UN tribute that later gave The Golden Rule ("Do unto others, 1961) GoldenRuleCe que vous voulez que les hommes fassent pour vous, faites-le de même pour eux. Jésus (Luc 6: 31)
George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants. Norman Rockwell

Attention: un Norman Rockwell peut en cacher un autre !

En cette Journée internationale de la langue maternelle

Et commémoration de la manifestation sanglante du 21 février 1952 qui lança la lutte du peuple bengalais pour ses droits linguistiques puis près de 20 ans plus tard son indépendance  …

Retour sur la face méconnue d’un peintre souvent réduit à ses portraits de « l’Amérique rêvée » des années 40-60 …

Et avant que cela ne devienne le  fétiche de la « diversité » que l’on sait aujourd’hui,  son oeuvre longtemps contestée pour l’égalité des droits civiques …

Et notamment, comme le montre bien la notice que lui consacre l’excellent site de vulgarisation historique américain Pop History Dig, sa longue lutte personnelle pour tenter d’imposer, dans des situations autres que serviles, des personnages issus des minorités ethniques sur les couvertures du Saturday Evening Post …

Avant son départ, en désespoir de cause, pour le plus tolérant Life  et les fameuses oeuvres qui le feront entrer dans l’histoire …

Dont le célébrisime « The problem we all live with » de 1964 (en double page intérieure de Life, souvent en tournée nationale et que nous n’avons justement pu voir lors de notre toute récente découverte du musée Rockwell de Stockbridge dans l’est du Massachusssets) …

Qui, évoquant magistralement le véritable chemin de croix qu’avait dû subir jour après jour et pendant toute une année la première élève noire  d’une école blanche de New Orleans, lui avait d’ailleurs été inspiré par le compte rendu qu’en avait fait cinq ans plus tôt un autre artiste quintessentiellement américan, John Steinbeck, dans son livre de voyage sur l’Amérique (« Travels with Charley« ) …

Mais également son presqu’aussi célèbre « New kids in the neighborhood » de 1967 où, toujours son incroyable souci du détail, il réussissait à évoquer à la fois la probable future entente entre les nouvelles générations de noirs et de blancs et, dissimulé dans un coin de son tableau (le regard suspicieux derrière le rideau d’une maison – qu’on ne voit probablement d’ailleurs que sur l’original du tableau lui-même), le long chemin qui restait encore à faire pour la génération de leurs parents …

Sans parler de sa non moins fameuse toile oecuménique intitulée « La Règle d’or » (Faites aux autres »), retravaillée d’un premier tableau abandonné fait précédemment en hommage aux Nations Unies où il réussit à placer nombre de ses voisins mais surtout son épouse récemment décédée portant dans ses bras le petit-fils qu’elle n’eut jamais le temps de connaitre …

Ou, encore moins connus, son “Southern Justice” (ou “Murder in Mississippi ») de 1965 pour Look, au sujet de l’assassinat de trois activistes des droits civiques, deux blancs et un noir, évoquant la très forte mais souvent oubliée implication de nombre d’étudiants juifs aux origines de ce qui allait devenir le Mouvement pour les Droits civiques …

Ou son « Blood brothers » de 1968, évoquant après l’assassinat de Martin Luther King les victimes (encore une fois un blanc et un noir) des émeutes qui avaient suivi et finalement non publié par le magazine …

“Rockwell & Race” 1963-1968

Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.
Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.

The recent display at the White House of Norman Rockwell’s 1963 painting, The Problem We All Live With, depicting a famous school desegregation scene in New Orleans, has properly drawn national attention to an iconic moment in America’s troubled civil rights history.

Rockwell’s painting focuses on an historic 1960 school integration episode when six year-old Ruby Bridges had to be escorted by federal marshals past jeering mobs to insure her safe enrollment at the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.  Ruby was the first African American child to enroll at the school, and the local white community – as elsewhere in the country at that time – was fiercely opposed to the court-ordered desegregation of public schools then occurring.  Rockwell’s rendering focuses on the little girl in her immaculate white dress, carrying her ruler and copy book, as the four U.S. marshals escort her.  The painting also captures some of the contempt of those times with the scrawled racial epithet on the wall and the red splattering of a recently thrown tomato.

Rockwell’s portrayal first appeared to wide public notice in January 1964 when it ran as a two-page centerfold illustration on the inside pages of Look magazine.  The painting ran as an untitled illustration in the middle of Look’s feature story on how Americans live, describing their homes and communities.

The context of the Ruby Bridges scene rendered by Rockwell had been heavily reported in print and on television in November 1960, with the anger of the mobs that day burnished deeply in the public mind.  Magazine readers viewing Rockwell’s piece in 1964 would likely recall the unhappy context of young school children being heckled and needing federal protection.

July 15, 2011: President Obama with Ruby Bridges (girl in painting), Rockwell Museum CEO, Laurie Moffatt, and behind Obama, Rockwell Museum President, Anne Morgan, viewing Rockwell’s painting at the White House near the Oval Office. White House photo, Peter Souza.

In 2011, President Obama had a hand in bringing Rockwell’s original painting to the White House, as did others, according to the Washington Post, including Ruby Bridges herself, the Norman Rockwell Museum which owns the painting, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Some quiet lobbying helped bring the painting to the White House, suggesting it be displayed there at the 50th anniversary of Ruby Bridges’ admission to the Frantz school.  “The President likes pictures that tell a story and this painting fits that bill…,” explained a statement in the White House blog.  “In 1963 Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on…”  However, at the time of the painting’s White House display, some reporting had erroneously stated the Rockwell piece had initially appeared on thecover of the January 14th, 1964 Look magazine.  That is a forgivable mistake given the fact that so much of Norman Rockwell’s work frequently did appear on magazine covers, most notably at the Saturday Evening Post.  But the error raises an important question, nonetheless.  Why didn’t the Rockwell painting of the famous civil rights incident run on the cover of Look magazine or some other magazine?

Well, therein lies a whole other tale, or at least a part of the story not often told – about how depictions of race and civil rights evolved in American art and popular magazines during those times.  By way of presenting some of that story here, the article that follows will look at the history of Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges piece; three other works he did related to race and civil rights; and how Rockwell, his magazine sponsors, and popular magazine publishing dealt with race and civil rights in the 1940s-thru-1960s period.  First, some background on the artist.

Norman Rockwell

Born in 1894, Norman Rockwell grew up in New York city, and as a boy dreamed of becoming an artist.  By the time he was ten he was drawing constantly.  He soon dropped out of high school and enrolled in art school, first at the National Academy School, but by 1910, at the prestigious Art Students League.  After graduation he did some of his first work for Boy’s Life magazine.  In 1916, Rockwell did his first cover for Saturday Evening Post, then one of America’s premiere weekly magazines.  For nearly the next fifty years, he would continue making much-loved Saturday Evening Post covers, most depicting everyday scenes of 20th century Americana.  Rockwell in fact, would do more than 320 covers for the Saturday Evening Post through 1963.  But that’s only part of his story.

1929: Girl & Doll’s Heart.
1949: Game Called, Rain.
1954: Girl in The Mirror.
1958: The Runaway.

Rockwell’s cover subjects for the Post ranged across American daily life – from a young boy in a doctor’s office awaiting a curative needle or teenage girls gossiping at a soda fountain, to a rookie baseball player reporting to play his first game or a worn-out politician at the end of a hard day of campaigning.  Some of Rockwell’s covers dealt with aspirational themes and democratic values.  In 1942, in response to a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell made his famous “Four Freedoms” series, each of which also ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover – Freedom of Speech (Feb 20, 1943), Freedom of Worship (Feb 27, 1943), Freedom from Want (March 6, 1943), and Freedom from Fear (March 13, 1943).

During this period as well, his Rosie the Riveter cover for the May 29th, 1943 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and another depicting a “liberty girl” for the September 4th, 1943 edition, helped the government recruit female workers for the war effort during WWII.  Some of these paintings traveled around the country in the mid-1940s, shown in conjunction with the sale of government war bonds.  “The Four Freedoms” series reportedly brought in a tidy sum of $132,992,539 in war bond funds.  Rockwell also did poster art for the U.S. Office of War Information in conjunction with the war bond drives.

While Rockwell’s name became practically synonymous with the Saturday Evening Post, he also did art for other publications, including: Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Literary Digest, Look, Country Gentleman, Popular Science, and others.  Rockwell’s art appeared on the covers of some 80 magazines.  His work also appeared in numerous advertisements and he became well known for illustrating the Boy Scouts of America annual calendar. (Galleries of Rockwell’s covers for the Saturday Evening Post are found at a number of very good websites, a few of which are listed at the end of this article in “Sources, Links & Additional Information”).  In the 1950s and 1960s, Rockwell in particular — and other artists at the Saturday Evening Post as well — became chroniclers of American culture and America’s culture past as nostalgia.  Rockwell worked at the heyday of the Saturday Evening Post’s reign as a magazine powerhouse, when circulation reached 4-to-5 million copies a week, and when a Rockwell cover alone could boost non-subscription sales by 250,000.  For millions of magazine readers in those years, Norman Rockwell became a household name in America, even if many art critics at the time didn’t regard his work as “serious art.”

Civil Rights Subjects

“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.
“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.

Rockwell appears to have been first nudged toward civil rights as subject matter in June 1943 when Roderick Stephens, an African-American activist and head of the Bronx Interracial Conference, wrote to Rockwell urging him to do a series of paintings to promote interracial relations.  Stephens had been moved by Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” and was worried at the time that urban race riots would ensue in major cities like his own New York, touched off by the migration of southern blacks to major cities.  Race riots, in fact, had then already occurred in Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit.  Although Stephens expressed his admiration to Rockwell for his “Four Freedoms,” he noted that two of the freedoms – “Freedom From Want” and “Freedom From Fear” – were, for most blacks at the time, freedoms denied.  Stephens proposed that Rockwell do a series of paintings to be printed and circulated as posters, just as the “Four Freedoms” had been, to promote racial tolerance, featuring subject matter that would illustrate the contributions of blacks to American society and how they helped realize the Four Freedoms.  Stephens believed Rockwell was an artist who could make a difference at the time, and could help “advance racial goodwill by years,” offering art to point up what was then in American practice, a restricted conception of freedom.  Rockwell is believed to have replied to Stephens, but he never embarked on Stephens’ proposal, more or less rejecting the series idea, explaining to Stephens  the difficulties he had encountered creating the “Four Freedoms” series.  But there may have been more to it than that, as Rockwell was then laboring under restrictions imposed by The Saturday Evening Post.

Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.

Rockwell’s venturing into controversial material such as race and civil rights did not come until later in his career, after he had left the Post.  Like other artists of the 1940s and 1950s who did commercial art and magazine illustrations, Rockwell was bound by certain publishing covenants and restrictions, written and unwritten, that determined what could and could not appear in magazine covers and illustrations.  The Saturday Evening Post, for example, would only allow minorities to be shown in servile roles.

In a 1971 interview with writer Richard Reeves, Rockwell explained the unwritten rule laid down by his first editor at the Post: “George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants.”  Lorimer was Rockwell’s editor at the Post for his first twenty years there.  The Rockwell cover illustration at left from the December 7th, 1946 Saturday Evening Post illustrates the rule in practice.  The scene, which is also known as Boy in Dining Car, shows a young boy in a railroad dining car studying the menu with purse in hand, trying to determine the proper payment and tip for the black waiter.

Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.
Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.

In addition to the 1946 Post cover above, Rockwell also did other magazine covers and illustrations from the mid-1920s through mid-1940s that depicted African Americans in various roles, usually in minor or servile roles, and sometimes not facing the viewer.  Among a few of these Rockwell pieces, for example, are: The Banjo Player, an illustration for a Pratt & Lambert varnish advertisement appearing inside The Saturday Evening Post of April 3rd, 1926; Thataway, a March 17th, 1934 cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a young black boy pointing to the direction taken by a thrown rider’s horse; Love Ouanga, a June 1936 illustration for a short story in American Magazine depicting a beautiful, stylishly-dressed young African American woman in a church scene contrasted against more coarse and country dress of other farming and working African Americans also in the scene; Full Treatment, a May 18th, 1940 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a wealthy man being attended to by a barber, manicurist, and a black shoe shine boy; The Homecoming, a May 26th, 1945 cover for The Post depicting a returning military veteran arriving home to a scene of welcoming family and neighbors that also includes an African American worker; and Roadblock, a July 9th, 1949 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a moving van that is blocked by a small dog in an urban alley scene with a variety on onlookers, including some black children.

Continuing into the 1950s and early 1960s, publishing art and mainstream magazines generally were slow to portray African American success stories and the civil rights struggle.

Cover Art, 1950s

1947: Jackie Robinson.
1947: Jackie Robinson.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Segregation story.
1954: Segregation story.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when the civil rights movement was struggling for recognition, the American art community – then involved with modern art and abstract expressionism – was generally not at the ramparts fighting racial discrimination.   Nor, for the most part, were America’s most popular magazines in that era featuring African Americans on their covers or doing prominent stories on civil rights.  In its May 8th, 1950 edition, Life magazine featured a photograph of baseball player Jackie Robinson on its cover, the first individual African American to be so featured by that magazine.  Robinson had become the first African American to break the color barrier in professional baseball three years earlier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Time magazine, for its part, had used an artist’s rendering of Robinson on an earlier cover in September 1947.  Back at Life, meanwhile, actress Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American woman to be featured on a cover at that magazine, for the November 1st, 1954 edition.  Dandridge was then appearing in her Academy Award-nominated best actress film role in Carmen Jones.  A few stories on segregation also appeared on major magazine covers in the mid-1950s.  On September 13, 1954, Newsweek ran a cover story on segregation in schools, showing a white and a black child in a Washington, D.C. school.  Time magazine put Thurgood Marshall on the cover of its September 19th, 1955 issue, Marshall then having risen to notice as chief counsel for the NAACP arguing the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (see “Brown vs Board…” sidebar, later below, for more details).

A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing “Approved Killing” story tagline.
A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing “Approved Killing” story tagline.

Look, another pictorial magazine similar to Life, and also popular in the 1950s, had rarely if ever used cover art that solely featured an African American.  There were black sports stars shown  on Look covers occasionally – such as Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson – but usually as one among five whites in a framed, six-photo layout.  Look did give cover billing to a few articles on racial issues in the 1950s.  On the cover of its January 24th, 1956 issue, Look ran the title of an article by William Bradford Huie, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi.”

Although there was no mention of race in the title, and it ran on a somewhat incongruous cover featuring the U.S. teenager (partially shown at left), the “shocking story” inside was truly shocking.  It was the story of the August 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old Chicago boy who was savagely beaten, shot, and mutilated by white men in Mississippi while the boy was visiting relatives there.  Till, a brash kid who knew nothing about the realities of the South, made the mistake of whistling at a white woman at a local country store.  Later abducted from his relatives’ home, Till was brutally pistol-whipped and dumped into a river, his body tied to a heavy metal fan.

Click to read at PBS.org.
Click to read at PBS.org.

Two white suspects – Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam – were later tried and acquitted by an all-white jury in less than two hours.  Their defense attorney had called on the jurors to honor their forefathers by not convicting white men for killing a black person.  Back in Chicago, Till’s mutilated body was displayed at an open-casket viewing.  No mainstream print publication in America at that time published the gruesome photos, although a few black-owned publications did, provoking outrage throughout African American communities.

Inside the January 24th, 1956 Look magazine, the article by author William Bradford Huie covered the Till murder and he also interviewed the two suspects, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, who were paid $4,000 to tell how they killed Emmett Till.  In the article, the two suspects – then safe from conviction after having been acquitted in their friendly Mississippi trial – confessed to the crime.  A year later, in its January 22nd, 1957 edition, Look published a follow-up article on the killing, also by William Bradford Huie, entitled “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?”  That story reported that blacks in the local community stopped using stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families, putting them out of business, as both men were also ostracized by the white community.

'56: Slavery/Segregation.
’56: Slavery/Segregation.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1963: Negro in America.
1963: Negro in America.

Cover Art ( cont’d)

On September 3rd, 1956, Life magazine featured a cover story related to slavery and segregation – “Beginning A Major Life series – Segregation,” stated Life at the top of the cover.  Time magazine featured Martin Luther King on its cover February 18th, 1957, as King was then in the news for his leadership in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.  Later that year, on October 7th, 1957, Time and Life both featured the school integration conflict at Little Rock, Arkansas with National Guard troops shown on their covers.  By the time of the Freedom Riders in 1961, a Newsweek cover story featured photos and quotes from three key players in the controversy: U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mississippi Governor, John Patterson.  For its June 28th, 1963 edition, Life featured a cover photograph of the wife and child of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers at his Arlington National Cemetery funeral. Evers, a Mississippi organizer, was shot in the back in his own driveway by a Ku Klux Klan member.  In July 1963, Newsweek published a special issue on “The Negro in America,” picturing an unnamed black man on the cover.  In smaller type on the cover, Newsweek further explained the focus of its series with the following: “The first definitive national survey – who he is, what he wants, what he fears, what he hates, how he lives, how he votes, why he is fighting … and why now?”  For its September 6th, 1963 issue, Life magazine featured a cover story on the historic August 1963 “march on Washington” with a photograph of two of its leaders, A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, shown standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  And as the civil rights movement received more national notice throughout the 1960s, along with urban unrest, more magazine covers followed.

13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.
13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.

Rockwell & The Post

Norman Rockwell, meanwhile, was experiencing change at The Saturday Evening Post.  By the early 1960s, the frequency of his covers there had slowed – down to a half dozen or so a year – and the magazine was experimenting with new formats.  Still, after more than 40 years of his cover art being featured for millions of Post readers, Rockwell was clearly an asset to the magazine.  In fact, for the February 13th, 1960 issue of the magazine and its cover story, he was the featured star and title subject.  The cover used his famous “triple self-portrait” and gave full billing to a beginning series of articles about him for the magazine taken from a new autobiography written with the help of  his middle son, Thomas Rockwell.  Shown at right, the cover taglines for that issue of the Post explained: “Beginning in this issue: America’s Best Loved Artist Finally Tells His Own Story… My Adventures As An Illustrator.”  Yet Rockwell was chafing at the Post by this time, and his days there were numbered.

1960: Window Washer.
1961: Artist at Work.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1963: Nehru of India.
1963: Nehru of India.

Through the early 1960s, Rockwell continued doing Post covers.  In 1960, for example he did five more Post covers in addition to “triple self portrait,” shown above,  three of  which offered traditional subjects: “Repairing Stained Glass,” April 16, 1960; “University Club,” August 27, 1960; and “Window Washer,” September 17, 1960 (with the washer ogling the secretary).  Two more Rockwell covers that year were portraits of the 1960 presidential candidates – U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  The magazine by then had begun shifting to more portraits of famous people as cover material, and was also using more cover photography rather than illustrations or paintings.  Rockwell cover portraits, in any case, held their own at the Post, and included others in the early 1960s,  among them: Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, January 19, 1963;  Jack Benny, entertainer, March 2, 1963; a serious portrait of President John F. Kennedy to accompany a cover story on his foreign policy challenges, April 6, 1963; and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 25, 1963.  Other more traditional Post covers by Rockwell in the early 1960s included: “Artist at Work,” Sept 16, 1961; “Cheerleader,” Nov 25, 1961; and “Art Connoisseur” of January 13 1962, showing a middle-aged man in a museum observing a Jackson Pollack-type painting (this issue also had cover billing for a story inside the magazine entitled, “The Little Known World of Our Negro Aristocracy.”).

Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.
Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.

One interesting departure for Rockwell from his normal Saturday Evening Post fare during the early 1960s – and a sign of  his more liberal inner concerns – came with the April 1st, 1961 cover that appeared under the title “The Golden Rule.”  This illustration actually had its genesis, in part, during the late 1940s when Rockwell had set out to do a painting honoring the United Nations (UN), an organization he admired and found hopeful for solving world problems.  For the UN painting, Rockwell had in mind something that would highlight the cultural, racial, and religious tolerance of the organization, and he had visited the UN Security Council Chamber for ideas and sketches.  His first efforts yielded a charcoal drawing of several major-nation delegates debating from their seats in a brightly lit foreground.  Behind the delegates, in the shadows, was a crowd of more than sixty people – a cross-section of men, women, and children from around the world, some in native dress.  But Rockwell had difficulty with the UN delegates agreeing to sit for the drawings, and he also had his own dissatisfactions with his art, so he set the project aside.  Some years later, in 1960, he resurrected the project, then changing its composition somewhat and using “the golden rule” as theme.  He also incorporated the phrase “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” directly into the painting using gold lettering.

Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.
Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.

The painting – which ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover on April 1st, 1961 – became a further expression of Rockwell’s inner values and interests, marking something of a turning point in his relationship with the Post, not the least of which was his depiction of people of color.  African Americans were also included in the painting and placed in prominent positions – one as a Ruby Bridges-type young girl in the foreground holding her schoolbooks to her chest, and another as a middle-aged black man in a white shirt in the upper right corner looking out at the viewer.  Art critics have noted that these African American depictions were positive portrayals that broke with the traditional servile stereotypes at the Saturday Evening Post.  And along with the other Asians and Africans shown, were Rockwell’s way of following his  conscience and “integrating” a Saturday Evening Post cover on his own.  Rockwell also incorporated a portrayal of his second wife, Mary, in the painting.  Mary was the mother of their three sons and had passed away in 1959.  She is shown in the right middle of the painting holding their grandson she never saw.  Rockwell is believed to have completed this painting in November 1960.  He was later presented with the Interfaith Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for the painting, a citation he treasured.

Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.
Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.

By late 1963, Rockwell was about to embark on a career change.  He was in his 60s by this time.  The cover art at the Saturday Evening Post pretty much continued to focus on Americana and everyday life as it had in the past.  Inside the magazine, however, there were contemporary stories of the day; the magazine was slowly changing.

Still, Rockwell had become frustrated by the limits the Post had imposed upon his art, especially regarding political themes and social concerns.  By then he had begun thinking about and moving on to other subject matter.  So in December 1963, he ended his near half-century with the Saturday Evening Post. 

Rockwell’s final cover for the magazine appeared in mid-December 1963.  It was actually an earlier portrait of John F. Kennedy he had done during the 1960 presidential campaign which the Post republished in a special memoriam issue that ran after Kennedy’s assassination.

Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.
Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.

Rockwell at Look

In December 1963, at the age of 68, Norman Rockwell signed on with Look magazine.  Look covers at the time dealt with contemporary subjects, celebrities, and general topics of the day, using mostly photographs.  A sample cover from December 1963 appears at left, this one also mentioning a civil rights story inside that edition.

Major circulation magazines in the early 1960s were beginning to feel the competition of television.  Collier’s had ceased publication in 1956, and even the Saturday Evening Post was feeling the heat.  Yet, Life and Look – the “picture magazines,” as they were sometimes called – remained strong, with solid advertising revenue.  Look by the mid-1960s would have some of its best years for sales and circulation.

When Rockwell began doing work for Look, Dan Mich was editor there. Mich was a supporter of thought-provoking journalism, and along with art director Allen Hurlburt, they gave Rockwell freedom to pursue his “bigger picture” interests, as he called them.  Look wanted to use Rockwell’s art as a compliment to current reportage and that gave Rockwell opportunity to pursue subject matter that interested him.

Rockwell’s third wife, Mary L. “Molly” Punderson, a fervent liberal, was an influence on Rockwell’s work through the 1960s, as was his friend and psychiatrist Erik Erickson.  And Rockwell himself, despite being tagged “conservative” by association with his Saturday Evening Post covers, had his own internal guideposts and values, as already noted above.  Rockwell was clearly more liberal/progressive than many of his Saturday Evening Post followers might have realized.  Some who knew him described him as a “strict constructionist,” especially so when it came to American values.  No surprise then, if given a subject and a free hand where American ideals such as freedom and equality of opportunity were at stake, his brush would be on the right side of those concerns.

Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans, November 1960, with U.S. marshals.
Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans, November 1960, with U.S. marshals.

And so it was with the Ruby Bridges episode from 1960.  Rockwell came to this particular controversy somewhat after the actual event had occurred.  The date of his painting, The Problem We All Live With, is 1963 and its use in the illustration in Look magazine appeared in January 1964.  So the Ruby Bridges painting was a studied affair for Rockwell; a project he had worked on for some time and given considerable thought to.  In November 1960, at the time of the actual incident, there had been television and news reporting of the event. Rockwell no doubt made use of this reporting and the news photographs of the event.  He also employed models to work from as he painted.

Prior to the first integration actions in New Orleans – and there were two schools involved and several black students; three at another school – politicians in Louisiana, including the state’s governor at the time, segregationist Jimmie Davis, had maneuvered to prevent and forestall the integration.  In September 1960, the schools there opened initially as segregated.  By November, however, the courts had set a deadline to begin school integration, but parents did not know which schools would be involved

“Brown vs. Board…”
Landmark Case: 1954
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.

The racial integration of American public schools was triggered by a Kansas welder named Oliver Brown who wanted a better education for his children.  Brown had sought the opportunity for his daughter to attend a whites-only school that was closer to his home than the local school for blacks.  An earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision dating from 1896 had allowed for the establishment of racially-segregated schools, which the court had then deemed acceptable under the constitution, calling them “separate but equal.”  Yet most of these schools were not equal.  A long legal battle – a court fight consolidated with other similar cases using the name Brown vs. Board of Education – eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (and who later became a Supreme Court justice).  The court unanimously ruled in Brown’s favor on May 17, 1954, and the case became a landmark ruling in ending segregation, not only in schools but throughout a wide variety of public venues.

A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.
A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.

Putting the new law into effect, however, would take years.  Initially, as Southern states and counties resisted integrating schools, federal marshals — and sometimes federal troops — had to be used to enforce the law, as in the case of Ruby Bridges in New Orleans.  In 1956, U.S. District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools.  After a series of appeals, Wright in 1960 set down a plan that required the integration of the schools on a grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade.  The New Orleans School Board then tested black kindergartners to determine the best candidates.  Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was one of six children selected; four agreed to proceed.  On November 14th 1960, Bridges integrated the William Frantz School (the other three children were assigned to the McDonogh 19 School).

Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges

Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.
Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.

Once it was revealed which schools in New Orleans were the ones chosen for the court-ordered integration, sidewalk protests ensued and white parents promptly removed their children from those schools.  However, at Ruby Bridges’ school – the William Frantz school — there were also two white parents who chose to keep their children in the school: a Christian minister’s five-year old daughter, Pamela Foreman, in kindergarten, and another white child, Yolanda Gabrielle, age six.  In addition to the jeering of Ruby, these white kids and their parents were also jeered and harassed, even beyond the school grounds.  Neighbor turned against neighbor and it got pretty ugly in those communities.

Rockwell, no doubt knew about all of this and likely read news accounts of the protests.  On November 15, 1960, The New York Times reported the greeting Ruby and her mother received as they arrived that day: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted ‘Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to integrate’…”

Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.
Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.

As four U.S. marshals arrived with Ruby and her mother, they walked hurriedly up the steps to the school’s entrance as onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.  On the sidewalk that day, assembled mothers and school students were yelling at police, some carrying signs, one held by a young boy that said, “All I Want For Christmas is a Clean White School.”  Another placard that day read: “Save Segregation, Vote States Rights Pledged Electors.”

The white parents kept up their boycott of the schools the entire year, and the protests and jeering continued periodically.  On December 2nd, 1960, for example, housewives demonstrated at the William Frantz school, one standing with a placard that read “Integration is a Mortal Sin,” citing a biblical scribe as source.

Rockwell’s painting, of course, does not capture all of this, nor was it intended to.  His focus appears to be solely on the girl, placed at center, giving no special notice to the marshals, other than they were needed, as he portrays them as anonymous and headless, from mid-torso down.  The setting around the little girl is ugly and threatening, but she is innocent and perfect, as her white dress and ribbon-tied hair suggest.  As far as she is concerned, she is just going to school.

1962: Steinbeck book.
1962: Steinbeck book.

One description of the 1960 New Orleans school integration protests that Rockwell may have read prior to or during his work on the Ruby Bridges painting was John Steinbeck’s observations of the episode, offered in his 1962 best-seller, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.  “Charley” was Steinbeck’s dog and traveling companion during his road trip around the United States.  Travels With Charley was published by Viking Press in the mid-summer of 1962, reaching No.1 on the New York Times nonfiction best- seller list October 21, 1962.  In part four of that book, Steinbeck recorded his reactions on coming to the New Orleans communities where the school integration controversy had flared, and he came away gravely saddened by what he saw.  In his book, Steinbeck offered a detailed account of Ruby Bridges’ arrival at the elementary school and her handling by the U.S. marshals:

“…The show opened on time.  Sound of sirens.  Motorcycle cops.  Then two big black cars filled with big men in blond felt hats pulled up in front of the school.  The crowd seemed to hold its breath.  Four big marshals got out of each car and from somewhere in the automobiles they extracted the littlest Negro girl you ever saw, dressed in starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round.  Her face and little legs were very black against the white…The little girl did not look back at the howling crowd but from the size the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn.  The men turned her around like a doll, and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big…”

November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana; one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”
November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana; one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”

Steinbeck had come to New Orleans in part to see the “cheerleaders,” as he called those then protesting New Orleans’ school integration, and he describes what he found first hand, as he witnessed some of the protests:

“…No newspaper had printed the words these women shouted.  It was indicated that they were indelicate, some even said obscene. . . . But now I heard the words, bestial and filthy and degenerate.  In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before.  Why then did these screams fill me with a shocked and sickened sorrow?…”

Steinbeck wrote that he knew “something was wrong and distorted and out of drawing” in what he had seen in New Orleans.  He had formerly counted himself as a friend of New Orleans; knew the city fairly well, had his favorite haunts there, and also had many treasured friends there – “thoughtful, gentle people, with a tradition of kindness and courtesy.”  Where were they now, he wondered – “the ones whose arms would ache to gather up a small, scared, black mite?”  Answering his own question, he wrote:

“…I don’t know where they were.  Perhaps they felt as helpless as I did, but they left New Orleans misrepresented to the world.  The crowd, no doubt, rushed home to see themselves on television, and what they saw went out all over the world, unchallenged by the other things I know are there….”

Another influence on Rockwell at this time was likely Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst at the Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Rockwell then lived and worked.  Erikson treated Rockwell occasionally for bouts of depression, was Rockwell’s friend, and also had a passion for civil rights.  Erikson was a colleague and mentor to a younger child psychiatrist named Robert Coles, who had begun working with Ruby Bridges and other children in the early school desegregation cases in 1961.  Coles had found that segregation had damaged the self-esteem of the little girls, and by 1963 he had written a series of articles beginning in March for The Atlantic Monthly magazine profiling Ruby Bridges’s experiences during integration of the Frantz school.  He also published The Desegregation of Southern Schools: A Psychiatric Study, a short book.  Erikson may well have made Rockwell aware of these at the time he was painting The Problem We All Live With.

Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964 focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities – city, farm & suburb.
Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964 focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities – city, farm & suburb.

It appears Rockwell began working on the Ruby Bridges painting sometime in 1963, also finishing it that year.  The editors at Look decided to use it in their January 14th, 1964 edition.  On the cover of that issue, a portion of which is shown at right, Look featured photos of American homes in various urban and suburban settings, along with a few family shots, billing its cover story as: “How We Live: Up in the city, Down on the farm, Out in the suburbs.  In homes packed with pride, prejudice and love.”

There was no special mention or billing of Norman Rockwell’s painting on the cover.  The illustration would be found in the middle of the magazine as a full two-page spread with no accompanying text.  In the table of contents it was billed under “art” with the title “The Problem We All Live With.”  It appeared amidst a series of articles with titles such as: “Their First Home,” “Down On The Farm,” and “Their Dream House Is On Wheels.”  One of the stories focused on Theodore and Beverly Mason, a black family living in a mixed community in Ludlow, Ohio.

Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”
Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”

Rockwell’s former Saturday Evening Post fans, coming upon this painting in Look, may have been quite surprised.  In fact, the painting did elicit reaction from Look’s readers, as the magazine received letters from those who were deeply moved by it, as well as those who were angered by it.  Some analysts would later note that precisely because Rockwell was an artist dear to the hearts of many conservatives for his renderings of Americana and American values, that his “new” work on civil rights subjects may have made some of these same fans think twice about America’s racial problem at that time, helping them face up to racism.  Rockwell himself would later say of his change in subject matter: “For 47 years, I portrayed the best of all possible worlds – grandfathers, puppy dogs – things like that.  That kind of stuff is dead now, and I think it’s about time.”

March 23, 1965, Look cover.
March 23, 1965, Look cover.

Rockwell appears to have been quite comfortable with what he offered in the Ruby Bridges painting.  In fact, in a letter he later wrote to the NAACP, Rockwell offered the illustration to the civil rights group, suggesting they reproduce the illustration as a poster to publicize their progress and accomplishments.  It is not known here what the NAACP made of this offer, or if the illustration was ever used as Rockwell suggested.  Rockwell, in any case, had more work to come on civil rights issues; work that would also be published by Look magazine, two of which are explored below.

Apart from Rockwell’s work, Look also published cover stories on civil rights issues in that period.  On March 23, 1965 the magazine featured “The Negro Now” story by Robert Penn Warren on its cover, describing its content with a series of questions, also on the cover: “How far has the Negro come?,” “What is the South ready to concede?,” “What happens next in the North?,” “Can we move forward without violence?,” and “Who speaks for the Negro now?”

Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.
Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.

“Southern Justice”

Another step that Norman Rockwell took with his civil rights painting in the 1960s, came when he ventured into depicting violence then occurring in the civil rights movement.  In 1964, he began work on a painting inspired by the murder of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi in June of 1964.

The three young men – James Chaney, a 21 year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a 20 year-old white Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Michael Schwerner, a 24 year-old white Jewish organizer and former social worker also from New York – were helping to register black voters in Mississippi.   Initially, the three men were reported missing.

Within days of their disappearance, the story made national headlines, as President Lyndon Johnson ordered a massive search.  However, it turned out that shortly after midnight on June 21, 1964, the three civil rights workers were murdered by local members of the Ku Klux Klan, aided in their plot by a local police chief.  All three were beaten and then shot, and their bodies not located until August 8, 1964, found buried beneath an earthen dam.

Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.
Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.

Rockwell began work on his “Murder in Mississippi” in 1964, a painting which later used the name of the Look article that it ran with, “Southern Justice.”  Rockwell typically worked on several projects at once, but with this project, he bore in on the work exclusively for five weeks straight.  The painting, which depicts the horror endured by the three young men as they were being beaten, uses a barren, isolated rural scene as its setting, likely at the end of some dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  The scene is lit only by an unseen torch.  One man is portrayed by Rockwell lying on the ground, presumably beaten, but trying, with one arm, to push himself up from the ground.  Another is standing in the glow of the attacker’s torch trying to help his colleague, who appears beaten and near death.  Analysts of this painting have noted that Rockwell, rather than actually showing the murderers in the scene, casts them instead as six ominous shadows approaching from the right, indicating that the young men are outnumbered, and also perhaps, symbolically, indicating the problem is a larger societal issue.

Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.
Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.

In considering this piece, the editors of Look were more taken with Rockwell’s initial sketch for the illustration and favored it over the finished painting, using it in the magazine.  The editors felt the coarser version offered a more powerful, emotional interpretation.  Rockwell at first disagreed with their choice but he did allow the sketch to be printed.  In the June 29, 1965 edition of Look, it ran as a single-page illustration alongside a one-page article by Charles Morgan titled, “Southern Justice,” which focused on “segregated justice” in the South, the Schwerner-Chaney-Goodman murders, other civil rights murders and beatings in the South, and the absence of black judges in Southern courts.  Rockwell’s illustration was captioned as “Philadelphia, Miss., June 21, 1964.”

As with the Ruby Bridges episode, Rockwell no doubt learned of this civil rights story through the media accounts and newspaper reporting of that day.  On June 22, 1964, for example, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the incident using the following headlines and description: “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered….”  After the three workers were found dead, however, local officials in Mississippi refused to prosecute the suspected killers.  The U.S. Justice Department then charged eighteen individuals with conspiring to deprive the three workers of their civil rights (by murder).  Seven were found guilty on October 20, 1967, but with appeals, did not begin serving their 3-to-10 year sentences until 1970, with none serving more than six years.  Three other suspects had been acquitted, but no further legal action ensued in the case until pressure was brought decades later, in June 2005, when the state of Mississippi prosecuted and convicted Edgar Ray Killen – who planned and directed the killing – on three counts of murder.

May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.

Look magazine, meanwhile, went on to do other stories on civil rights issues.  Less than a year later, on May 3, 1966, Look ran a cover story on the Ku Klux Klan showing a hooded Klansman on the cover wielding two flaming torches.  Rockwell had done some other work for Look in 1965 following his Southern Justice illustration.  For the July 27, 1965 edition of Look, Rockwell did an illustration to accompany an article on President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program for the poor, entitled “How Goes the War on Poverty.” Rockwell’s illustration featured a “helping hand” clasped to another’s seeking help, superimposed over a background of diverse faces with a quote from President Johnson lettered into the painting: “Hope for the Poor, Achievement for Yourself, Greatness for Your Nation.”  In the following year, for the June 14, 1966 edition of Look, Rockwell did the cover art and four other pieces inside the magazine helping to illustrate a story on The Peace Corps – “J.F.K.’s Bold Legacy.”  Rockwell’s cover piece included a profile of John F. Kennedy and others who actually served in the Peace Corps (some of whom also modeled for Rockwell as he did the painting), including one African American female.  All were shown on the cover in profile looking left, with Kennedy in front (see cover above).  Rockwell had thrown himself into the Peace Corps project, actually visiting Peace Corps volunteers in action in Ethiopia, India, and Colombia during 1966 as he created several narrative scenes of them at work.  But Rockwell would also do more civil rights work the following year, also published in Look.

Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Look 1967: « Suburbia. »
Story: Negro in Suburbs.
Story: Negro in Suburbs.

“New Kids…”

The May 16th, 1967 issue of Look magazine was billed as “A Report on Suburbia” – with added tagline, “The Good Life In Our Exploding Utopia.”  Look’s cover for that edition also listed the line-up of suburban-related stories inside: “Parties and Prejudices,” “New Styles and Status,” Morals and Divorce, and “Teenagers in Trouble.”  One of the stories to follow was by Jack Star, entitled “Negro in the Suburbs.”  Mrs. Jacqueline Robbins, a young black housewife who then lived in the all-white Chicago suburb of Park Forest, Illinois with her chemist husband, Terry, 32, and their two sons, was quoted as saying, “Being a Negro in the middle of white people is like being alone in the middle of a crowd.”  A Rockwell illustration — entitled New Kids in the Neighborhood — ran in the middle of that article.  “Although Negroes are still a rarity in the green reaches of suburbia,” reported the Look article, “they are emerging from nearly all the large metropolitan ghettos with increasing frequency.”  In Chicago during 1966, the story explained, 179 Negro families moved into white suburbs – more than twice as many as in the previous year, seven times as many as in 1963…”

Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.
Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.

Rockwell’s full, two-page illustration inside this suburban-themed issue focused on a “moving-in” day scene for a new black family freshly arrived in some unnamed white suburb.  In his painting, Rockwell uses black and white children as his focal point.  The two sets of children are standing in front of a moving van sizing one another up.  The two African American kids are presumably brother and sister.  The three white kids – two boys and a girl – are kids from the neighborhood.  Rockwell has included common elements for all the kids – the boys have baseball gloves, the girls each wear ribbons in their hair, and both groups have a pet.  For the viewer, meanwhile, there is little escape, as Rockwell involves them quite directly with the central question, essentially asking them to complete the picture; asking them to think about how the interaction between these kids, their parents, their community and the larger society will unfold.

Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.
Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.

Students of Rockwell have noted that he often used kids in his illustrations, sometimes as neutral arbiters and non-judgmental conveyors of life situations – but also as a means of reaching out to mainstream audiences to prod, send a needed message of some kind, or raise a pointed question.  Rockwell’s two groups of kids in this painting might be seen as surrogates for the larger society, each group trying to decide what to do and whether or how to conquer that middle distance.  The issue in the New Kids painting, of course, is not only the relationships that may ensue between the kids in the weeks and months ahead, but also the larger slate of societal and democratic issues that integration then posed for the nation and its future.  The kids, in any case, are usually not the problem.  As Ruby Bridges has remarked from her own experience with integration in Louisiana, “none of us knows anything about disliking one another when we come into the world.  It is something that is passed on to us.”  Rockwell, it seems, also tried to convey some of that, featuring childhood innocence amid adult turmoil, or just letting children be children.  But Rockwell was also capable of more direct messages, using tougher themes and subject matter.

“Blood Brothers”

A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.
A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.

In June 1968, during a conversation at a party, Norman Rockwell hit upon an idea for a painting.  Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April that year, there had been rioting in more than 100 U.S. cities, with a number of people killed and injured.  Rockwell was thinking of a scene resulting from this urban unrest, and he called his editor at Look, Allen Hurlburt, to get preliminary approval and begin work.  What Rockwell began to sketch were two dead men on the ground – one black and one white – both bloodied and beaten,  found on a ghetto street after a riot lying parallel to one another, their blood co-mingling in a pool on the ground.  According to the Norman Rockwell Museum, “Rockwell hoped to show the superficiality of racial differences – that the blood of all men was the same.”

Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”
Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”

Rockwell continued working on the project though June 1968 when Allen Hurlburt at Look suggested that Rockwell change the ghetto scene to a Vietnam battlefield scene.  Rockwell then had the two men in essentially the same position, now dressed in military uniform, presumably killed in action during the Vietnam War, their helmets cast beside them on the ground.  In war, of course, there was no discrimination; death and injury came to soldiers the same way, no matter if they were black or white.  At this point the painting began to be known as Blood Brothers.   However, later that fall, the editors at Look decided not to use the painting.

Rockwell wasn’t happy with the decision, did some soul searching and talked with friends about the painting, but set it aside and moved on to other work.  But later that year, Rockwell received an invitation from the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights group founded by students at the University of Chicago in 1942.  CORE was active in desegregation protests and sits-in from its founding, and became a leading civil rights group in the 1960s, especially in the South, and also helped sponsor the 1963 March on Washington and other events.  CORE wanted Rockwell to do an illustration for a Christmas card that the organization likely planned to use to send to its membership or perhaps for fundraising.  But Rockwell did not send the group a typical Christmas or Holiday-themed illustration.  Instead, he sent them the Blood Brothers painting.  CORE, in any case, was happy to have Blood Brothers.  However, it is not known how CORE used the painting or whether the group reproduced it for other purposes.  One account has reported that the painting is missing from the CORE collection.  The earlier studies and sketches Rockwell did for the painting are still held at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

Rockwell RFK sketches.
Rockwell RFK sketches.

Rockwell, in any case, had been a very busy man in 1968.  He had done portraits of all the presidential candidates for Look magazine that year – President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Senators Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey and Bobby Kennedy for the Democrats, and Ronald Regan, Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon for the Republicans.

Also in 1968, Rockwell’s Right to Know – a painting of a diverse group of citizens addressing their government – was published in Look’s August 20th edition.  The 74 year-old artist had a number of other projects ongoing that year as well, including advertising work and illustrations for a children’s book.  He also found time that year to appear on the Joey Bishop Show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Belated Recognition

Norman Rockwell continued painting through his 70s.  However, it was only in his latter years that his work began to be recognized for its artistic value.  During much of his professional life, especially during his Saturday Evening Post years, Rockwell’s work was dismissed by many art critics who regarded his portrayals of American life to be idealistic or too sentimental.  They did not consider him a “serious painter;” others believed his talents were wasted or put to frivolous purpose.  Yet time would work in Rockwell’s favor.

Today, his body of work, stretching over more that 60 years, is highly regarded and continues to be studied by scholars while  thousands flock to Rockwell exhibitions wherever they appear.  During his lifetime Rockwell completed some 4,000 original works, some lost to fire.  In addition to his several hundred magazine illustrations and covers for Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other publications, he also did illustrations for more than 40 books including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; made annual contributions to the Boy Scouts of America calendars between 1925 and 1976; did illustrations for the Brown & Bigelow publishing and advertising firm between 1947 and 1964; completed numerous illustrations for booklets, catalogs, movie posters, sheet music, stamps, and playing cards; and also painted a few wall murals.  His portrait work in later years would involve a number of famous figures, among them, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra, and John Wayne.  He also did a few unexpected pieces, such as a 1968 album cover portrait of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper for their rock-blues recording, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

In 1969, having lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for last quarter of his life, he agreed to lend some of his works to the Stockbridge Historical Society for a permanent exhibition.  Word soon spread that his works were on display there and attendance grew annually, into the thousands.  By 1973, then in his late 70s, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his collection, placed initially in a custodianship that would later became the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge.  In 1977, Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Gerald R. Ford, recognizing his “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.”  The following year, on November 8, 1978, Rockwell died at his Stockbridge home at the age of 84.  An unfinished painting remained on his easel.

Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.
Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.

In July of 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative series of five Rockwell works including “Triple Self Portrait” and “The Four Freedoms.”  In 1999, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific.  It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”  Rockwell’s work was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York city from November 1999 through February 2002.

Today, Norman Rockwell originals fetch millions at auction, and in recent years the values have been jumping.  Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting, used for a Saturday Evening Post cover in 1943 shown at right, was sold twice in recent years – once in 2000 for $2 million, and when resold again in May 2002, escalated to $4.95 million.  His Homecoming Marine sold for $9.2 million at auction in May 2006.  And in November 2006 at Sotheby’s in New York, Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties sold for $15.4 million.  Collectors of Rockwell art today include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and others.

1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”
1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum  in Stockbridge, MA – with visitors now trending upwards of 160,000 annually – holds the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art, including some 574 original works as well as the Norman Rockwell Archives of photographs, fan mail, and other documents.  Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting – The Problem We All Live With – featured at the top of this story, is on display at the White House from June 22 – October 31, 2011.  Thereafter it is scheduled to rejoin the Rockwell museum’s traveling exhibition, “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.”

Other stories at this website dealing with magazine art and magazine history include: “FDR & Vanity Fair” (cover art in the 1930s);  “Murdoch’s NY Deals” (history of New York magazine, 1970s);  ”Remington’s West” ( art & John Hancock advertising, 1959); and “Christy Mathewson” (art & John Hancock advertising, 1958).  Thanks for visiting. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  September 23, 2011
Last Update:  September 26, 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Rockwell & Race, 1963-1968,”
PopHistoryDig.com, September 22, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
"Thataway" - March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
« Thataway » – March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early « rule » on African American depiction.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby's auction in 2006.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby’s auction in 2006.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
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G. Jurek Polanski, Review, “Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People” (at Chicago Historical Society, Feb 26 – May 21, 2000), ArtScope.net.

“The U.S. Civil Rights Movement,” Photo Gallery, State.gov.

Linda Szekely Pero, “Norman Rockwell, Year by Year – 1968,” Portfolio, Magazine of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Autum, 2004, pp. 8-14.

Carol Vogel, “$15.4 Million at Sotheby’s For a Rockwell Found Hidden Behind a Wall,” New York Times, November 30, 2006.

Jack Doyle, “Rosie The Riveter, 1941-1945″ (WWII & women’s rights icon), PopHistoryDig.com, February 28, 2009.

Ted Kreiter, “Norman Rockwell: Getting the Real Picture,” SaturdayEvening Post.com, 2009.

Carol Kino, “The Rise of the House of Rockwell,” New York Times, February 4, 2009.

“The Art of Rockwell” (Gallery), New York Times.com, February 2009.

CBS News, “Lucas and Spielberg on Norman Rockwell,” CBS.com, July 10, 2010.

Brooklyn Museum, Teacher Resource Packet, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, November 19, 2010–April 10, 2011.

The Saturday Evening Post: Norman Rockwell Covers,” My-Mags.com.

Life Covers: Civil Rights,” Photo Gallery, Life.com.

See Also, These Stories:

Jack Doyle, “Dylan: Only A Pawn…, 1963″ ( Bob Dylan’s Medgar Evans song & other civil rights music, w/video link ), PopHistoryDig.com, November 23, 2010.

Jack Doyle, “Strange Fruit, 1939″ ( Billie Holiday song history & bio ), PopHistoryDig.com, March 7, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “Motown’s Heat Wave, 1963-1966″( pop music history, 1960s), PopHistoryDig.com, November 7, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Reese & Robbie, 1945-2005″ (Brooklyn baseball statue of Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese), PopHistoryDig.com, June 29, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “When Harry Met Petula, April 1968″(television, music & civil rights history), PopHistoryDig.com, February 7, 2009.

Voir aussi:

Norman Rockwell

Once upon a time there was the American dream…

The artist’s paintings on display in New York next to the photos from which they were taken. The photographic sets were mounted with impeccable attention to the details.

His extraordinary capacity to render the atmosphere of an epoch. His commitment to civil rights behind an apparent naivety

Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I live in Crestwood, an idyllic neighborhood in the city of Yonkers, which is just north of the Bronx. Here, many years ago, Norman Rockwell, (New York, 1894 – Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1978) the great American artist, had chosen to depict the local train station in one of his magnificent paintings (Commuters, 1946). When I saw it for the first time I realized why he had become an icon in the American art world. The painting was “alive” in all senses. Not only were the images carefully studied and replicated, but the overall feeling of the composition conveyed the mood, the characteristics of that community at that time, or at least it gave the impression of doing so. I admired his work without realizing what it really entailed.

It took a visit to the exhibition Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera (one of Norman Rockwell Museum’s traveling exhibition, on until April 10th at the Brooklyn Museum) to open up a new world to me about his painting techniques and his deeply professional artistic approach to reality as he chose to reproduce it.

I always knew he used models for his paintings, but never realized that he staged their positions, photographed them and then painted them, always retaining the original idea, but adding his own particular twist to the images. He used these photographs as building blocks for his compositions, allowing him to develop flawless images which have enhanced and beautified the covers of many popular American magazines and advertisements for almost 60 years. In the exhibition, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, some of the artist’s photographs (spanning from the early ‘40s to the late ‘60s) are placed alongside his paintings, drawings, and commercial illustrations to enlighten us about the working process of one of America’s most beloved artists.

A superlative narrator of the American way of life through his popular illustrations, Norman Rockwell stood for what is right in American life even when he portrayed scenes that depicted controversial situations such as struggles for civil rights, the war on poverty and discrimination.

Rockwell, unlike Walter Molino in Italy, aimed at something more than to illustrate an episode or an attribute of the society of which he was such an outstanding member. He may have been appearing to recreate endearing and adorable images of little girls dealing with approaching adulthood, boys’ exchanges with bullies and children’s escapades. His illustrations or paintings, which always brought a smile to the face of the viewer, clearly give the first impression of having been just simply created for the visual enjoyment of the readers. Observing his work, though, we may notice two major tendencies developing through the years. The first is the complexity of the pictures, which tended to acquire more and more details, and the second is the depth of the message that came with the image. His details allow for an educational experience about the specific decade in which the painting was produced. Nothing is left to chance. The clothing, the gadgets, the cars, the houses and all the particulars that pervade his creations are true to life and reflect his exactness. In the painting New Kids in the Neighborhood(1967), for example, the cat that the little black girl is holding in her hands is white, while the puppy alongside the white kids is black, a silent comment on the unimportance of color, and both the black boy and the white one carry baseball gloves, a common bond that will allow for the overcoming of prejudice.

Moreover, Rockwell also stood for an America free of the bigotry, discrimination and racism which had characterized it throughout his lifetime. He expressed what the common decent citizen of that country felt and was sometimes too timorous to articulate: America was a beautiful country, but changes had to come, as they eventually did. He was criticized at first for his adamant pro-civil rights stand and his portrayals of delicate situations aimed at awakening the American fairness, in which he undoubtedly believed. However, even that criticism could not damage his powerful and undisputed artistic reputation.

His art was more than messages about the rights of the underprivileged. The America one may see and appreciate through his magnificent art work is a sanguine, true to itself, sometimes slightly kitsch but always fascinating, intriguing and unique America, the land of liberty, Coca Cola, skyscrapers and the bald eagle, the land of Norman Rockwell. That is why, even today, as I pass by Crestwood station, I can’t help but smile, reliving that image in my mind as if it was the first time.


Délinquance: De véritables razzias à Paris et en banlieue (The Barbarians are already within the gates)

20 février, 2013
Alaric's sack of RomeSuis-je le gardien de mon frère? Caïn (Genèse 4: 9)
C’est précisément en raison de la mort de l’impérialisme que nous voyons l’apparition du monde pré-moderne. Aujourd’hui, il n’y a aucune puissance coloniale qui accepte de s’atteler à cette tâche, cependant les occasions, peut-être même le besoin de colonisation, sont aussi grands qu’ils ne l’ont jamais été au XIXe siècle. (…) Le cas d’Ossama Ben Laden a maintenant démontré, pour ceux qui ne l’avait pas déjà réalisé, qu’aujourd’hui le monde entier est, potentiellement au moins, notre voisin. Robert Cooper
Il y a une espèce d’omerta totale sur la circulation des produits. Il n’y a pas de contrôle autre que bactériologique. Donc comme le prix de la viande chevaline s’est effondré en Roumanie, parce qu’on interdit la circulation des chevaux sur les routes, il y a des affaires juteuses à faire. José Bové
As a Muslim and a mother I believe it’s so damaging to hide from the truth about Asian sex gangs. Yasmin Alibhai – Brown
Avant, on était dans une situation de liberté totale. Maintenant, quand on entre dans un magasin, si les employés se rendent compte qu’on est des Roms, on est suivi partout dans les rayons où l’on va, jusqu’à la sortie du magasin. On ne peut plus rien voler. Elena B. (Rom de Rouen, 13.08.10)
Qu’ils aillent, les gens des associations, faire un tour un Roumanie. On parle de “régler le problème à la source”. Mais les Roumains eux-mêmes sont excédés. Non seulement par le fait que les agissements des Roms à Paris créent la confusion entre Roms et Roumains, mais parce que certains Roms, bien que sédentarisés, gardent un mode vie d’un autre âge et commettent à-peu-près les mêmes méfaits qu’ici. Tout le monde est affecté par le chômage et par la vie dure en Roumanie (les professeurs universitaires ou les médecins gagnent 300 euros/mois, le loyer d’un studio à Bucarest), mais tout le monde ne se presse pas aux carrefours de Paris en criant à la stigmatisation. Allez voir là-bas comment les Roms ne déclarent pas leurs enfants à l’Etat civil, comment ils ne les envoient pas à l’école, gratuite cependant, comment ils marient leurs filles à 12 ans, comment à Ferentari, le quartier rom, ils jettent les poubelles par la fenêtre au lieu de les descendre, et d’autres. Allez faire un tour boulevard Haussmann ou sous les colonnes de la galerie Vivienne, ou campent des Roms, pour les entendre le soir planifier à quel endroit ils vont mettre les enfants au travail le lendemain. Revoyez ces interviews passées dans les JT français ou des Roms déclarent qu’ils préfèrent mendier ici car ils gagnent ici plus en un mois que s’ils travaillaient le même temps en Roumanie. Je vais transmettre cette idée à mon amie médecin neurologue qui se tue au travail à Bucarest pour, comme je le disais, 300 euros par mois. Le seul travail à faire, c’est un travail d’éducation, de sensibilisation à l’intégration dans la société dont ils attendent des choses en retour, sans tellement respecter ses lois. (…) J’ai toujours voté à gauche mais non seulement je soutiens ces démantèlements mais aussi la suppression de l’aide au retour dont, faute des papiers, il est très difficile de savoir qui en a profité, car c’est aussi cette aide, qu’ils touchent à répétition, qui les fait revenir à chaque fois. Paris 77
Certaines refusent les rares propositions qui sont souvent en grande banlieue. «Elles sont attachées au quartier car des habitudes d’entraide se sont mises en place. Les voisins ont organisé des distributions de repas et de vêtements. C’est dur à admettre, mais cette solidarité a d’une certaine manière fixé ces familles dans la rue et dans une position de mendicité. La solidarité est importante, sauf si elle maintient la personne dans la précarité», explique Evangeline Masson-Diez, responsable de la mission Roms au Secours catholique de Paris et auteure d’un ouvrage qui raconte le quotidien des familles roms en France. Une solidarité des riverains particulière à ces quartiers relativement aisés de la capitale et « qu’on ne retrouve pas pour les Roms installés dans les quartiers pauvres ou sur les bords des autoroutes », note-t-elle. Libération
Ce soir-là, Larissa et ses enfants dormaient appuyés contre le système de ventilation de la supérette, pour profiter de l’air chaud. Ainsi, ils n’ont pas trop froid, m’explique-t-elle, tandis que dans la rue défilent les Parisiens emmitouflés. (…) Avec deux amies, nous allons au supermarché faire des courses pour Larissa. Du basique. Eau, pain, bananes, gâteaux. Une manière comme une autre d’aider. Une manière aussi de s’acheter une bonne conscience, peut-être. Les paquets font plaisir à Larissa. Elle donne de l’eau à ses enfants, boit avidement. (…) Il faut dire qu’à la capitale, les Roumains ne sont pas aimés. Faites l’expérience de prononcer le mot « roumain » dans le métro. Hostilité et paranoïa, au mieux pitié. Le racisme envers les Roumains et les Roms est devenu ordinaire, on ne s’en cache pas. Ce racisme-là est un peu comme l’antisémitisme d’il y a un siècle: il ne choque pas tant que ça. Je suis revenue voir Larissa. Elle n’était plus au même endroit. À la place j’ai rencontré sa sœur. Puis j’ai rencontré Marissa. Elle s’abrittait de la pluie sous l’auvent d’une banque, son petit garçon endormi sur ses genoux. Elle m’a demandé des couches – « numéro cinq » – pour son enfant, qui n’avait pas été changé depuis deux jours. Dans la supérette, j’ai acheté un chocolat chaud. « C’est bien triste », m’a dit le vigile, quand il a su à qui mes courses hétéroclites étaient destinées. « Avant, on leur donnait des invendus, mais plus maintenant: des bagarres éclataient entre eux ». Emilienne Malfatto (étudiante Sciences Po)
Les cours du cuivre comme ceux de l’acier et du plomb grimpent à nouveau en flèche. Du coup, les pillages de voies ferrées, de tombes ou de plaques d’égout progressent aussi. (…) Pas une semaine ne se passe sans que des plaques d’égout soient volées, des ornements de tombes subtilisés, des plaques de cuivre retirées des transformateurs de la SNCF, des tresses de métal arrachées le long des autoroutes. Le coût pour les entreprises et les collectivités sont exorbitants. Le Figaro
 C’est bien connu, on ne parle que des trains qui n’arrivent pas à l’heure. Mais on en ignore le plus souvent les raisons. Or l’une des causes principales, selon la SNCF, est liée au vol de câbles de cuivre le long de ses lignes. Ce véritable pillage en règle occasionne des retards à répétition. Les câbles sont déterrés puis arrachés. Aussitôt la signalisation s’en trouve perturbée et ce sont des milliers de passagers qui, sur le quai de gare, pestent contre ces trains qui se font désirer. Le Figaro
« Au début, il s’agissait d’une délinquance itinérante, d’équipes qui écumaient le pays. Dorénavant, dans 50% des cas, il s’agit d’habitants sédentaires qui volent dans leur région », raconte Stéphane Ottavi. La part des étrangers impliqués dans ces vols a par ailleurs doublé, passant de 10% en 2009 à 20% aujourd’hui. On se passe donc le mot pour dire que la rapine est aussi facile qu’elle rapporte gros. Le Figaro
Vols de métaux, de matériel, chantage à l’embauche… Pour les entrepreneurs du BTP, la vie de chantier prend parfois des allures de parcours du combattant. (…) Ils craignent également des représailles physiques ou sur leurs biens. Car au-delà des vols, notamment de cuivre qui se sont multipliés avec la flambée des cours des métaux, le phénomène du chantage à l’embauche et du racket fait aussi de nombreux dégâts. La méthode : des hommes se présentent sur le chantier, demandant un emploi que souvent ils n’exerceront d’ailleurs jamais, sans quoi ils menacent l’entrepreneurs de dégradation de matériel, de vols ou d’agressions. 20 Minutes
Pour les cambriolages, c’est autre chose. Tous les experts savent que le phénomène est amplifié par la suractivité de certains gangs de pays de l’Est, organisés en mafias, qui effectuent de véritables razzias à Paris et en banlieue. Bruno Beschizza (secrétaire national de l’UMP chargé de la sécurité et élu régional de Seine-Saint-Denis)
L’envolée du cours de l’or aiguise l’appétit pour les bijoux et la profusion des biens facilement transportables favorise leur transport et le recel au marché noir. La montée en puissance des gangs de casseurs témoigne d’un transfert de délinquance vers une activité criminelle moins exposée pénalement et tout aussi lucrative que les trafics de drogue ou les braquages. Christophe Soullez (criminologue, chef de l’ONDRP)
Délinquants itinérants issus des gens du voyage ou «petites mains» pilotées à distance par des mafias des pays de l’Est, ces bandes de cambrioleurs ignorant les frontières n’hésitent plus à couvrir des centaines de kilomètres lors de raids nocturnes pour repérer puis investir des demeures isolées. En quelques années, les «voleurs dans la loi» géorgiens sont devenus les «aristocrates» de la discipline. Organisés de façon quasi militaire et placés sous la férule de lieutenants, ces «Rappetout» venus du froid écument avec méthode les territoires les plus «giboyeux» du pays, notamment dans le Grand Ouest, les régions Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur ou encore Languedoc-Roussillon. Selon une estimation récente, la valeur marchande de leur colossal butin frise les 200.000 euros par semaine. Continuant à se propager dans les grandes villes, le fléau gangrène à une vitesse étourdissante les campagnes et les petites agglomérations: entre 2007 et 2012, le nombre de villas et résidences «visitées» en zone gendarmerie a bondi de 65 %. Soit 35.361 faits constatés de plus en cinq ans. En plein cœur du département de la Marne, où les cambriolages ont flambé de 47 % en un an, des clans albanais retranchés près de Tirana ont dépêché des «soldats» pour piller des maisons de campagne situées dans des villages jusque-là préservés tels que Livry-Louvercy, aux Petites-Loges ou encore à Gueux. Le Figaro

Après les médecins ou les journalistes, voici les pillards sans frontières!

Gangs très spécialisés qui pillent domiciles, mais aussi commerces et locaux industriels, délinquants itinérants issus des gens du voyage ou «petites mains» pilotées à distance par des mafias des pays de l’Est, bandes de cambrioleurs ignorant les frontières, gazage de victimes dans leurs propres habitations  …

Vol de métaux, matériel, cables, plaques d’égout, décorations de tombes, grilles de maison, racket et chantage à l’embauche

Alors que la piraterie ou les preneurs d’otages ravagent nos grandes routes maritimes ou nos lieux de vacances

Pendant qu’entre l’Armée chinoise et les mafias russes ou d’Europe de l’Est et sans parler de nos centres commerciaux ou à présent aéroports, nos entreprises ou Etats sont régulièrement victimes d’attaques informatiques …

Et que, drapés dans la légendaire générosité de leurs beaux quartiers (proportionnelle, généralement, à la distance au problème et peu soucieuse du risque de non-assistance en populations en danger), nos belles âmes et dirigeants crient au racisme à la moindre évocation des réalités qui fâchent …

Bienvenue à l’Europe sans frontières

Et derrière les familles entières qui campent désormais littéralement dans nos rues, parcs ou cabines téléphoniques …

Aux véritables razzias téléguidées par des gangs de pays de l’Est auxquelles, sans parler de nos assiettes, sont de plus en plus soumis nos villes et nos campagnes comme nos voies ferrées et autoroutes ou nos locaux industriels ou agricoles !

Explosion historique des cambriolages à Paris

Jean-Marc Leclerc

Le Figaro

19/02/2013

INFO LE FIGARO – Les vols dans les résidences principales et secondaires ont augmenté de 58% à Paris intra-muros et de 41% dans l’agglomération. Du jamais vu.

Les analystes de la préfecture de police de Paris ont dû se frotter les yeux en découvrant le bilan mensuel des crimes et délits dans la capitale en janvier. Selon nos informations, les cambriolages à Paris intra-muros sont passés de 703 faits enregistrés dans les commissariats en janvier 2012 à 1117 faits en janvier 2013, soit une hausse historique de 58,89%.

Dans l’ensemble de l’agglomération, incluant les trois départements de la petite couronne (92, 93 et 94), de 2462 infractions de ce type constatées en janvier 2012, les cambriolages déclarés à la police sont passés à 3489, soit une hausse de 41,71%. Là encore, une explosion sans précédent.

Les vols à la tire explosent aussi

Le gouvernement pourrait être tenté d’expliquer que si les chiffres grimpent de la sorte, c’est qu’ils étaient masqués auparavant. Mais voilà: un commissaire de quartier explique au Figaro qu’«il est impossible d’occulter de tels faits, puisque les victimes sont obligées de déposer plainte pour espérer être remboursées par les assurances». Les chiffres seraient donc fiables et attesteraient d’une augmentation objective du phénomène.

Par ailleurs, d’autres indicateurs sèment le trouble, comme les infractions dans les réseaux ferrés d’Ile-de-France. En janvier, dans toute l’agglomération du Grand Paris, sous la responsabilité du préfet Bernard Boucault, les vols à la tire dans le métro et le RER sont passés de 752 à 1192, soit une explosion de 58%, les vols simples, de 873 à 1123, soit une augmentation de 28% et les vols avec violence de 597 à 638, soit une hausse de près de 7%.

A Paris même, les vols à la tire sont passés de 529 à 874, soit une hausse de 65%. Les vols simples sont passés de 581 à 723, soit +24%. Quant aux vols avec violence, ils ont crû de 7%, passant de 315 à 340 faits recensés. La Seine-Saint-Denis détient la palme de l’augmentation des vols à la tire dans les réseaux ferrés avec une hausse de 98% sur un mois!

L’UMP y voit l’effet d’un sentiment d’impunité

À quoi peut tenir cette dégradation inquiétante? Pour Bruno Beschizza, secrétaire national de l’UMP chargé de la sécurité et élu régional de Seine-Saint-Denis, «elle tient d’abord au sentiment d’impunité qui progresse chez les voyous, sous l’effet de la politique Taubira». Et l’élu d’ajouter: «Les vols à la tire, les vols de métaux et tout ce que je constate dans ma circonscription ne sont pas sans lien avec l’implantation calamiteuse de campements de la honte tout autour de Paris, où prospèrent des réseaux d’exploitation de la misère.»

«Pour les cambriolages, selon lui, c’est autre chose. Tous les experts savent que le phénomène est amplifié par la suractivité de certains gangs de pays de l’Est, organisés en mafias, qui effectuent de véritables razzias à Paris et en banlieue.»

Voir aussi:

Un cambriolage toutes les 90 secondes

Christophe Cornevin

Le Figaro

04/02/2013

INFOGRAPHIE – Sous l’effet des gangs internationaux, ce fléau a pris des dimensions industrielles.

Soixante-dix fermes et maisons dévalisées en un temps record dans les Deux-Sèvres, le Maine-et-Loire, la Charente et la Dordogne par une équipe de six malfaiteurs – dont deux femmes – qui jouaient les campeurs le jour et portaient la cagoule la nuit. Une cinquantaine de demeures pillées en Franche-Comté mais aussi en Bourgogne et en Champagne-Ardenne par un gang d’une vingtaine de forçats de l’effraction venus du Jura…

Ces affaires récentes ne sont que la énième illustration d’un fléau qui atteint désormais des dimensions extravagantes. Selon un dernier état des lieux de l’Observatoire national de la délinquance et des réponses pénales (ONDRP), la France a été le théâtre de pas moins de 352.600 cambriolages en tous genres en 2012. Soit un fait toutes les 90 secondes! Le phénomène visant les habitations principales, qui ne cesse d’enfler, a été marqué par une augmentation de 8,5 % l’année dernière, sachant que 2011 avait déjà été calamiteuse avec une explosion de 17 % des délits enregistrés. Ce chiffre est d’autant plus préoccupant qu’il ne reflète qu’une partie de la réalité: à peine six ménages victimes sur dix disent porter plainte quand ils constatent une effraction ou une tentative.

Un savoir-faire déconcertant

Ce qui était l’apanage des «monte-en-l’air» et des vieux briscards de la cambriole du siècle dernier a cédé le pas à des gangs très spécialisés qui pillent domiciles, mais aussi commerces et locaux industriels, avec une extraordinaire frénésie. Stakhanovistes du pied-de-biche, ils font preuve d’une boulimie et d’un savoir-faire qui déconcertent les experts. «L’envolée du cours de l’or aiguise l’appétit pour les bijoux et la profusion des biens facilement transportables favorise leur transport et le recel au marché noir, observe le criminologue Christophe Soullez, chef de l’ONDRP. La montée en puissance des gangs de casseurs témoigne d’un transfert de délinquance vers une activité criminelle moins exposée pénalement et tout aussi lucrative que les trafics de drogue ou les braquages.» «À chaque reprise, le cambriolage a un fort impact sur le sentiment général d’insécurité car tout le monde connaît une victime dans son proche entourage, rappelle un officier spécialisé. Sur le plan personnel, ce délit est vécu de façon très traumatique, comme un viol de l’intimité quand disparaît l’alliance en or ou encore l’ordinateur qui recelait les photos de famille…»

Délinquants itinérants issus des gens du voyage ou «petites mains» pilotées à distance par des mafias des pays de l’Est, ces bandes de cambrioleurs ignorant les frontières n’hésitent plus à couvrir des centaines de kilomètres lors de raids nocturnes pour repérer puis investir des demeures isolées. En quelques années, les «voleurs dans la loi» géorgiens sont devenus les «aristocrates» de la discipline. Organisés de façon quasi militaire et placés sous la férule de lieutenants, ces «Rappetout» venus du froid écument avec méthode les territoires les plus «giboyeux» du pays, notamment dans le Grand Ouest, les régions Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur ou encore Languedoc-Roussillon. Selon une estimation récente, la valeur marchande de leur colossal butin frise les 200.000 euros par semaine.

Continuant à se propager dans les grandes villes, le fléau gangrène à une vitesse étourdissante les campagnes et les petites agglomérations: entre 2007 et 2012, le nombre de villas et résidences «visitées» en zone gendarmerie a bondi de 65 %. Soit 35.361 faits constatés de plus en cinq ans. En plein cœur du département de la Marne, où les cambriolages ont flambé de 47 % en un an, des clans albanais retranchés près de Tirana ont dépêché des «soldats» pour piller des maisons de campagne situées dans des villages jusque-là préservés tels que Livry-Louvercy, aux Petites-Loges ou encore à Gueux.

Prélèvements d’indices

L’acharnement des malfaiteurs ne semble plus guère avoir de limite. Début janvier encore, un quadragénaire de nationalité roumaine est mort à Stains (Seine-Saint-Denis) en tombant du toit d’une maison paroissiale dans laquelle des policiers avaient pénétré après avoir été prévenus qu’un cambriolage était en cours. À la vue des uniformes, le voleur a chuté de plusieurs mètres. Récidiviste endurci, il aurait préféré sauter plutôt que de se faire prendre.

Commerçants et particuliers, eux, se barricadent au mieux. Quelque 3 % des ménages sondés en 2010 par l’Insee et l’ONDRP ont déploré un cambriolage, tenté ou réussi, au cours des deux dernières années. Après avoir déposé plainte, 75 % d’entre eux ont assuré n’avoir plus jamais eu aucune nouvelle de leur affaire. Seuls 8 % ont été informés d’un classement sans suite.

Désormais, policiers et gendarmes déployés sur le terrain disposent de mallettes pour relever des indices sur toutes les scènes d’infraction. «Ces prélèvements de traces sont une des clefs de l’élucidation et le recours aux moyens de la police technique et scientifique doit être systématisé», martèle Manuel Valls. Soucieux de démanteler des «équipes rodées, des filières souvent étrangères, spécialisées dans la délinquance sérielle et itinérante», le ministre de l’Intérieur veut renforcer l’action des cellules anti-cambriolages (CAC) installées sur l’ensemble du pays.

Appelant à une «réflexion sur le niveau de protection des habitations», le ministre pourrait dévoiler d’ici à l’été les contours d’un nouveau plan national d’action. Selon nos informations, la gendarmerie vient de lancer au cœur de son pôle judiciaire à Pontoise (Val-d’Oise) un nouveau Service central d’analyse génétique de masse, capable de traiter à la chaîne 4000 traces de toutes natures par mois. Soit dix fois plus qu’auparavant.

Voir également:

Des Roms posés au cœur de la ville

7 novembre 2012 à 19:06

Depuis quelques mois, des familles entières vivent et dorment sur les trottoirs de Paris.

Alice Géraud

Ils sont là la journée lorsque passent les passants. Femmes mendiantes assises sur les bancs publics ou des matelas. Enfants courant sur les trottoirs. Nourrissons emmaillotés dans des couvertures. A côté d’eux, des sacs et des poussettes où ils entassent quelques vêtements, parfois des provisions. Ils sont là à la nuit tombée lorsque les habitants du quartier rentrent chez eux. Là le soir lorsque les bars de Bastille se remplissent puis se vident. Ils sont là la nuit lorsque la ville dort. Contorsionnés dans des cabines téléphoniques, abris dérisoires à l’ergonomie absurde. C’est dans ces vitrines verticales et nocturnes de la misère, que Marc Melki (1) a photographié quotidiennement pendant trois mois le sommeil de ces familles, roms pour la plupart, qui vivent sur des trottoirs en plein centre de Paris.

Venus de Roumanie et de Bulgarie

Les premières familles sont arrivées il y a un an et demi. Sans que l’on sache pourquoi elles se sont installées là. Il y en a eu une, puis d’autres, remontant dans le XIe arrondissement, vers la place Léon-Blum. Au printemps et à l’été derniers, un grand nombre d’entre elles se sont aussi posées aux alentours de la place de la République dans le IIIe puis le Xe arrondissement. Leurs récits de vie sont vagues et parfois contradictoires. Les familles viennent de Roumanie ou de Bulgarie. Certaines expliquent avoir fui les grands campements à l’extérieur de Paris et leurs démantèlements, d’autres avoir été «déposées» en France, d’autres encore être venues rejoindre une partie de leur famille. Certaines disent avoir déjà bénéficié de l’aide au retour en Roumanie (300 euros par adulte, 100 euros par enfant), que Manuel Valls prévoyait de réformer, avant de revenir en France.

A Bastille, plusieurs familles s’apprêtent à passer leur deuxième hiver sur le trottoir. Durant la journée, les hommes et les enfants les plus grands fouillent les poubelles. Les jours de marché, boulevard Richard-Lenoir, ils récupèrent les invendus. Son bébé toussant dans les bras, une jeune mère répète être mieux en France qu’en Roumanie où il n’y a «pas d’argent». Certains s’accrochent à des espoirs dérisoires. Comme cette rumeur selon laquelle un touriste américain aurait donné 200 euros à une famille rom l’an dernier place de la Bastille. «Il y a un vrai danger que des enfants meurent dans la rue. On essaie de trouver des solutions d’hébergement mais ce n’est pas satisfaisant. Nous sommes face à des familles perdues, usées, traumatisées, qui ne parlent pas français et qui sont dans l’errance depuis longtemps. C’est très compliqué à gérer», explique Jacques Daguenet, adjoint communiste en charge de l’exclusion à la mairie du XIe arrondissement.

Une solidarité qui les a fixés ici

L’an dernier, la Ville de Paris, paniquée à l’idée qu’il finisse par y avoir des morts, a mandaté une association, Emmaüs coup de main, pour prendre en charge les situations les plus urgentes. Les moyens demeurent inadaptés et insuffisants.

Depuis quelques semaines, avec l’arrivée du froid, certaines familles ont pu bénéficier de quelques nuitées d’hôtel. Trois, quatre jours, avant de retourner sur leur bout de trottoir. La veille sociale parvient parfois à trouver des places en hôpital pour les enfants. Mais les familles reviennent. Certaines refusent les rares propositions qui sont souvent en grande banlieue. «Elles sont attachées au quartier car des habitudes d’entraide se sont mises en place. Les voisins ont organisé des distributions de repas et de vêtements. C’est dur à admettre, mais cette solidarité a d’une certaine manière fixé ces familles dans la rue et dans une position de mendicité. La solidarité est importante, sauf si elle maintient la personne dans la précarité», explique Evangeline Masson-Diez, responsable de la mission Roms au Secours catholique de Paris et auteure d’un ouvrage qui raconte le quotidien des familles roms en France (2). Une solidarité des riverains particulière à ces quartiers relativement aisés de la capitale et «qu’on ne retrouve pas pour les Roms installés dans les quartiers pauvres ou sur les bords des autoroutes», note-t-elle. La mairie du XIe et les associations sont en effet assaillies de coups de fils et de courriers d’habitants choqués et démunis face au spectacle de ces enfants et ces bébés dormant sous leurs fenêtres dans des cabines téléphoniques.

(1) http://www.marcmelki.com (2) «Micha, Elena et les autres», Lacurne, 2011.

Voir encore:

Invasion of the pickpockets: As 1,700 fall victim every day in run-up to Olympics, this is how the Eastern European gangs do it

Pickpocketing has increased 17% over the last two years

BBC investigation exposes tactics of professional gangs

625,000 ‘thefts from person’ were recorded in 2011/12

Homicides at level in 30 years… down 14% on last year

Figures released by Crime Survey of England and Wales

Jack Doyle

The Daily Mail

20 July 2012

Britain is in the grip of a pickpocketing epidemic as Eastern European gangs descend on London ahead of the Olympic Games.

A surge in sneak street thefts means more than 1,700 people fall victim every day – an increase of nearly a fifth in only two years, according to official crime figures released yesterday.

At the same time, police warned that professional gangs from Romania, Lithuania and even South America who operate in capitals across Europe are heading to Britain, intent on cashing in on unwitting tourists at London 2012.

A BBC investigation exposed the tactics used by Romanian thieves, who were previously operating in Barcelona, to dupe their victims.

The criminals boasted of their ‘one-second’ theft techniques which leave targets unaware that anything has happened until it is too late. They can make £4,000 a week taking wallets, smartphones and laptop bags. The goods are then shipped back to Romania and sold on the black market.

Scotland Yard has made more than 80 arrests already and warned thieves the capital will be a ‘hostile environment’ in the coming weeks.

The Met has even drafted in a team of Romanian police officers to deal with the problem and patrol in the West End of London and Westminster during the Games. They will not have arrest powers.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘These Romanian officers will prove to be a huge asset in cracking down on certain criminal networks who are targeting tourists in central London.’

Official statistics released yesterday showed pickpocketing thefts rose 17 per cent in the past two years.

In 2011/12, a total of 625,000 people fell victim, the Crime Survey of England and Wales showed.

That is an increase of more than 102,000 since 2009/10.

The vast majority of the total are classified as ‘stealth thefts’, but in 83,000 cases the victims’ possessions were ‘snatched’.

The BBC report showed the first member of a pickpocket gang approaching their victim with a request for directions.

Another member of the gang then plays drunk to get close to the target, while taking their wallet or mobile phone. The stolen goods are handed to a third member and quickly spirited away.

The thieves told the BBC reporter they were examining online maps of London to help plan escape routes.

Detective Inspector Mark Teodorini, the head of Scotland Yard’s Olympics crime team, called for public vigilance. Officers have conducted a series of raids in recent weeks on properties where suspected thieves were living.

He said: ‘We know where people are. We know the addresses they are using, we know the vehicles they are using, and we will come through their door very robustly – and if we find anything on them, we will arrest them.’

He added: ‘We won’t always get them in the act but we are trying to disrupt their activity.

‘It is going to be a hostile environment for pickpockets. My advice to them is “don’t bother”.’

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said: ‘The rise in pickpocketing, thefts of wallets and unattended bags is worrying and can be the cause of upset for many victims.

‘So we cannot afford to be complacent in the fight against crime.’

In April, a family of Romanian pickpockets who built expensive homes in their home country with the proceeds of thefts from commuters were jailed.

Voir encore:

Gassed in their beds by Riviera robbers: Terrifying ordeal of the British tourists falling victim to Mediterranean gang crimewave

Emily Andrews

The Daily Mail

13 August 2010

Britons on the French Riviera are being drugged and robbed by thieves who gas them as they sleep.

The gangs quietly break in or slip inside patio doors left open because of the heat.

They then crouch down and release the gas into air conditioning units or under the victims’ bedroom doors.

After waiting outside for the gas to take effect, they creep back in and can take their time to ransack the rooms and steal cash, jewellery, credit cards, cameras and laptops.

The thieves wear masks to stop them succumbing themselves.

One victim, Lisa Smythe, was staying with her two sons in a four-bedroom house in Valbonne when they fell victim to an £80,000 robbery.

The family were gassed through the letter box, but when one of the sons woke up to find masked men in his room they injected him with something to knock him out.

Mrs Smythe, 38, woke up feeling groggy and struggled to wake her sons.

Her eight-year-old, Robbie, had a needle mark on his arm, and he had to be tested for HIV.

Jewellery, cash and computers worth £50,000 had been stolen, as well as a £30,000 Mercedes CLK Cabriolet.

Mrs Smythe said: ‘It was a horrific and incredibly scary experience.

‘I felt sick, I knew we’d been gassed and robbed immediately as there’s been a spate of these sort of burglaries in the area and seeing a needle mark in my son’s arm was the worst moment of my life.

‘My other son, Tom, who is five, was very groggy and out of sorts and I had a banging headache and sore throat.

‘We believe that after we went to bed, burglars gassed us through the letterbox but there wasn’t enough to do the whole house and Robbie woke up.

‘The police didn’t really react, they just took a statement and they wouldn’t confirm we had been gassed.’

French police suspect the involvement of Russian mafia and Romanian gangs who target English-speaking tourists and expats, believing them to be rich and owning expensive cars and yachts.

Mrs Smythe said: ‘I got a private investigator involved, but he told me not to pursue it, saying it was most likely Russian mafia and if I did anything to get them imprisoned I’d be risking my life.

‘He said the other gangs are French burglars from Nice, or Italian Mafia and even Romanian gangs who send in small children through the windows to open up the house.’

The French Riviera, including the glamorous resorts of Cannes, St Tropez and Nice, is incredibly popular with the British during the summer.

Police fear the trend is spreading to other areas of Europe popular with Brits.

It has escalated since Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine fell victim to a gang as they slept in a villa in Cannes in 2002.

The thieves are understood to have broken in and smothered the What Not To Wear presenters with chloroform-soaked pads before stealing their jewellery and cash.

Two weeks ago Lucy Mclean and her husband Michael woke in their villa on the Cap D’Antibes to find £30,000 of their belongings had gone, including her engagement ring.

Mrs Mclean, who is 35 and five months pregnant, believes the gangs are using nitrous oxide stolen from dentists.

She added: ‘It’s so scary and upsetting and I won’t sleep in the house on my own now, we’re definitely going to move but it seems to be all over the French Riviera.

‘Almost everyone I know has had at least one break-in. They are definitely targeting British tourists, because they see all the yachts along the coast, which they think they are owned by us, so they think we are all really rich.

‘Rather than waiting until you are out of the house, now they want you to be at home as you’ll have all your cards and cash on you.

‘Once they’ve knocked you out with the gas they can take their time as they have a good six hours before you wake up.’

The Mcleans lost a laptop, cards, cash, jewellery, cameras and mobile phones.

A French police officer from the specialist burglary squad said: ‘It’s the time of year – the thieves go for tourists who they see as rich.

‘Hire cars have special number plates here so that’s one big giveaway.

‘There are a couple of break-ins a night and these new gangs are very organised.

‘Gassing victims seems to be a worrying trend that is sweeping Europe.’

Voir également:

Police battling 7,500 crime gangs that cost the country £100 million a day

Police are now battling against 7,500 organised crime gangs after the number increased eight fold in just a decade, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Tom Whitehead, Security Editor

25 Jan 2013

The criminal enterprises cost the country more than £100 million a day in crime and lost revenues and involve more than 30,000 offenders.

Mass immigration and the explosion of cyber crime are among the driving forces for the growing problem.

Writing for this newspaper, Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said the figures show why the new National Crime Agency (NCA), which will be formally launched later this year, is needed.

But a leading chief constable said the Government must back up its tough rhetoric with funding and called for dedicated funding to tackle organised crime.

Mr Browne, the crime prevention minister, said: “International crime is big business. Gun smuggling, money laundering and people trafficking all operate across borders.

“Large-scale crime needs a parity of resilience. We cannot allow organised criminal networks to be better organised than the crime-fighting authorities which are meant to thwart them.”

Police agencies and the Home Office estimated there are 7,500 organised crime gangs operating in the UK – up from 6,000 in 2010.

In 2001, the then National Criminal Intelligence Service estimated there was between 800 and 900 such gangs operating.

Mass immigration over the last decade and freer movement between borders is partly to blame and Eastern European gangs from the former Eastern Bloc countries are known to target Britain.

The ever increasing role of the internet in every day life has also led to a massive increase in cyber crime such as identity theft and online fraud.

One police source said drugs gangs have even been known to switch to cigarette smuggling because they have networks in place, the profits are almost as high and the penalties are far lower.

Organised crime costs the country some £40 billion a year – more than £100 million a day – in terms of policing it, the criminal justice system and lost revenues.

Mr Browne said: “Many high value cars stolen in Britain are illegally exported; most fake cigarettes smoked in Britain are illegally imported.

“Heroin and cocaine are not produced in Britain, but they are consumed here.

“Meanwhile the internet provides huge opportunities for organised international crime. It is widely used for importing prohibited goods, fraud and scams, and child pornography – much of which originated overseas.

“Local police forces have a vital role to play in fighting crime, but even the larger forces do not routinely have the scale of resilience to match the scale of the threat, which also often originate from outside their geographical area.”

The NCA will replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency and will incorporate the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre, which tackles child abuse.

But a budget for the new agency is still to be finalised.

Mick Creedon is the Derbyshire Chief Constable and the spokesman on organised crime issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

He said the Government should consider dedicated resources to tackle organised crime.

“It is only in recent years that we have really begun talking about organised crime and what I would say to ministers is show us your investment.

“There is £550m dedicated for counter terrorism. Is there an equivalent for organised crime?”

Mr Creedon said the number of gangs is not a sign of an increased problem but a better ability to identify them, which is allowing a true picture of the scale to now emerge.

Voir encore:

Français enlevés au Cameroun: l’Afrique, un continent à risques pour les voyageurs?

L’Express

20/02/2013

L’enlèvement mardi de sept touristes français au Cameroun rappelle les dangers qui guettent les ressortissants étrangers en Afrique. Le point sur les destinations plus ou moins déconseillées aux voyageurs.

Français enlevés au Cameroun: l’Afrique, un continent à risques pour les voyageurs?

ENLEVEMENTS/AFRIQUE – De nombreux pays du Sahel sont plus ou moins déconseillés aux voyageurs. Ici, la carte du ministère des Affaires étrangères en date du 15 janvier 2013.

Conseil aux voyageurs/diplomatie.gouv.fr

Au lendemain de l’enlèvement de sept Français dont quatre enfants au Cameroun, emmenés depuis au Nigeria, le quai d’Orsay est clair. « Au regard de la menace terroriste qui pèse sur la région [du Sahel], aucun endroit ne peut plus désormais être considéré comme sûr », écrit le Conseil aux voyageurs sur le site du ministère des Affaires étrangères diplomatie.gouv.fr.

Lire l’article: Sahara, la grande peur des expatriés

L’intervention française au Mali, lancée le 11 janvier, a contribué à renforcer les risques de prises d’otages dans toute la région du Sahel. Les ressortissants français sont donc invités à la plus grande prudence. Les sites de la couronne sahélienne (Burkina Faso, Sénégal, Tchad, Nigeria, Niger, Mauritanie) sont particulièrement sensibles selon le ministère. L’augmentation des risques d’attentats ou d’enlèvements pour les expatriés n’est cependant pas circonscrite à ces pays.

Cameroun.

Les mesures de précautions prônées par le ministère des Affaires étrangères pour le pays dans lequel ont été enlevés ce mardi sept ressortissants français d’une même famille n’étaient pas les plus importantes au moment de l’enlèvement. Les ressortissants français qui se trouveraient actuellement dans l’extrême-nord du pays « doivent impérativement se mettre en lieu sûr et quitter la zone au plus vite », alerte désormais le Quai d’Orsay.

Algérie

« Tout déplacement est formellement déconseillé à nos ressortissants au sud et au centre » du pays, prévient la rubrique ‘Conseil aux voyageurs’ du site diplomatie.gouv.fr. L’attaque terroriste menée sur le site gazier d’In Amenas le 16 janvier dernier, qui a coûté la vie à une trentaine de ressortissants étrangers dont un Français, incite le gouvernement à la méfiance

Maroc

Dans ce pays, le gouvernement appelle simplement ses ressortissants à « faire preuve de la plus grande vigilance dans les lieux publics et les rassemblements ». Cette mise en garde fait écho à l’explosion d’origine criminelle qui s’est produite le 28 avril 2011 au restaurant « Argana » sur la place Jemaa el-Fna. 17 personnes ont péri et 20 autres ont été blessées lors de cet attentat.

Tunisie

L’assassinat au début du mois de l’opposant Chokri Belaïd a entraîné de nombreuses protestations dans diverses villes du pays. Le ministère des Affaires étrangères recommande en conséquence de « se tenir à l’écart de toute manifestation et de suivre les consignes dispensées sur le site de l’ambassade de France en Tunisie ».

Egypte

Les différents rassemblements et manifestations qui ont lieu pour célébrer le deuxième anniversaire de la révolution égyptienne « sont toujours susceptibles de dégénérer », écrit diplomatie.gouv.fr. « Les lieux de rassemblement habituels au centre-ville du Caire tels que la place Tahrir et les abords des bâtiments officiels doivent impérativement être évités, tout comme le quartier d’Héliopolis où se trouve la présidence de la République », ajoute le site du Quai d’Orsay.

Ghana

Il est recommandé aux résidents ou touristes français dans ce pays de se montrer très vigilants, compte tenu de l’intervention militaire au Mali et de la participation d’Accra à la Mission internationale de soutien au Mali (MISMA). De plus, une recrudescence des agressions armées envers les ressortissants étrangers a récemment été constatée à Accra, la capitale ghanéenne, indique le site du ministère des Affaires étrangères.

Voir enfin:

Cyber-espionnage: l’armée chinoise formellement accusée par un rapport

Nabil Bourassi

La Tribune

20/02/2013

Une société privée de protection informatique accuse, dans un rapport, le gouvernement chinois d’avoir mis sur pied une unité militaire de cyber-espionnage. D’après Mandiant, cette unité aurait dérobé plusieurs centaines de térabytes de données à des secteurs industriels jugés stratégiques. La Chine se défend de ces accusations et estime qu’elle est elle-même la cible de cyber-attaques en provenance des Etats-Unis.

La Chine est-elle la cible d’une campagne de dénigrement, ou se livre-t-elle réellement à des activités secrètes de cyber-espionnage ? Depuis plusieurs semaines, l’opinion publique américaine s’interroge après les attaques de plusieurs médias qui auraient révélé des informations compromettantes pour Pékin. Un rapport du National Intelligence Estimate a même identifié le territoire chinois comme le premier abri de cyber-espions au monde.

L’armée chinoise dans le viseur

Cette fois, une société privée américaine, Mandiant, va plus loin et désigne directement le gouvernement chinois comme le principal commanditaire dans un rapport. La société de protection informatique serait remontée jusqu’à lui après avoir démêlé les fils de nombreuses cyber-attaques depuis 2006. Mandiant aurait ainsi identifié une unité de hackers mise sur pied par l’armée chinoise à des fins d’espionnage. Cette unité que Mandiant a baptisé APT1 (advanced persistent threat) serait d’après la société, le second bureau du 3è département de l’état-major de l’armée de libération populaire, ou plus communément appelé par les militaires chinois l’unité 61398.

Pour Mandiant, l’activité d’APT1 est la plus « prolifique » de toutes les unités de hackers qu’il a identifiées à travers le monde. Ses motivations reposent sur l’intelligence économique. Ainsi, le rapport estime que les entreprises visées font parties des quatre secteurs industriels classés prioritaires par le 12è plan quinquennal chinois. Le butin estimé par la société privée américaine se compterait par « centaines de terabytes de données auprès d’au-moins 141 organisations ». Autrement dit, le préjudice financier serait potentiellement considérable, pour peu que les informations dévoilées soient classées sensibles, voire stratégiques.

Des attaques confondues par leurs adresses IP

Les investigations menées par Mandiant lui ont permis d’identifier les principales caractéristiques de ce groupe de hackers : de son adresse exacte jusqu’au modus operandi de ses actions. APT1 siègerait en partie à Shanghaï dans un immeuble construit en 2007, dans la zone nouvelle de Pudong. Cet immeuble abriterait des « centaines, peut-être des milliers de personnes ». Ensuite, Mandiant a suivi la trace des nombreuses adresses IP identifiées à l’occasion d’une série d’attaques sur deux ans. Elles présentent les mêmes caractéristiques, utilisent les mêmes logiciels Microsoft, et les mêmes types de claviers.

La Chine dément fermement

Le gouvernement chinois, lui, s’insurge contre ces accusations qu’il estime infondées. Un porte-parole du ministère chinois des Affaires Etrangères a ainsi déclaré au Wall Street Journal : « les cyberattaques sont anonymes et transnationales et il est difficile de retracer l’origine des attaques. Je ne sais donc pas comment les conclusions du rapport peuvent être crédibles ». Il a d’ailleurs ajouté que la Chine était elle-même victime d’attaques en provenance des Etats-Unis sans toutefois désigner un quelconque responsable. De son côté, le ministre chinois de la Défense a rappelé que « l’armée chinoise n’avait jamais supporté en aucune sorte des activités de hacking ».

Voir enfin:

The Barbarians Inside Britain’s Gates

All the young rioters will have had long experience with the justice system’s efforts to confer impunity upon law breakers.

Theodore Darlymple

OPINION

The Wall Street Journal

August 15, 2011

The youth of Britain have long placed a de facto curfew on the old, who in most places would no more think of venturing forth after dark than would peasants in Bram Stoker’s Transylvania. Indeed, well before the riots last week, respectable persons would not venture into the centers of most British cities or towns on Friday and Saturday nights, for fear—and in the certainty—of encountering drunken and aggressive youngsters. In Britain nowadays, the difference between ordinary social life and riot is only a matter of degree, not of type.

A short time ago, I gave a talk in a school in an exquisite market town, deep in the countryside. Came Friday night, however, and the inhabitants locked themselves into their houses against the invasion of the barbarians. In my own little market town of Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, where not long ago a man was nearly beaten to death 20 yards from my house, drunken young people often rampage down one of its lovely little streets, causing much damage and preventing sleep. No one, of course, dares ask them to stop. The Shropshire council has dealt with the problem by granting a license for a pub in the town to open until 4 a.m., as if what the town needed was the opportunity for yet more and later drunkenness.

If the authorities show neither the will nor the capacity to deal with such an easily solved problem—and willfully do all they can to worsen it—is it any wonder that they exhibit, in the face of more difficult problems, all the courage and determination of frightened rabbits?

The rioters in the news last week had a thwarted sense of entitlement that has been assiduously cultivated by an alliance of intellectuals, governments and bureaucrats. « We’re fed up with being broke, » one rioter was reported as having said, as if having enough money to satisfy one’s desires were a human right rather than something to be earned.

« There are people here with nothing, » this rioter continued: nothing, that is, except an education that has cost $80,000, a roof over their head, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, food in their stomachs, a cellphone, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, an electric stove, heating and lighting, hot and cold running water, a guaranteed income, free medical care, and all of the same for any of the children that they might care to propagate.

Looters take electrical goods after breaking into a store during the second night of civil disturbances in central Birmingham, England.

But while the rioters have been maintained in a condition of near-permanent unemployment by government subvention augmented by criminal activity, Britain was importing labor to man its service industries. You can travel up and down the country and you can be sure that all the decent hotels and restaurants will be manned overwhelmingly by young foreigners; not a young Briton in sight (thank God).

The reason for this is clear: The young unemployed Britons not only have the wrong attitude to work, for example regarding fixed hours as a form of oppression, but they are also dramatically badly educated. Within six months of arrival in the country, the average young Pole speaks better, more cultivated English than they do.

The icing on the cake, as it were, is that social charges on labor and the minimum wage are so high that no employer can possibly extract from the young unemployed Briton anything like the value of what it costs to employ him. And thus we have the paradox of high youth unemployment at the very same time that we suck in young workers from abroad.

The culture in which the young unemployed have immersed themselves is not one that is likely to promote virtues such as self-discipline, honesty and diligence. Four lines from the most famous lyric of the late and unlamentable Amy Winehouse should establish the point:

I didn’t get a lot in class

But I know it don’t come in a shot glass

They tried to make me go to rehab

But I said ‘no, no, no’

This message is not quite the same as, for example, « Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise. »

Furthermore, all the young rioters will have had long experience of the prodigious efforts of the British criminal justice system to confer impunity upon law breakers. First the police are far too busy with their paperwork to catch the criminals; but if by some chance—hardly more than one in 20—they do catch them, the courts oblige by inflicting ludicrously lenient sentences.

A single example will suffice, but one among many. A woman got into an argument with someone in a supermarket. She called her boyfriend, a violent habitual criminal, « to come and sort him out. » The boyfriend was already on bail on another charge and wore an electronic tag because of another conviction. (Incidentally, research shows that a third of all crimes in Scotland are committed by people on bail, and there is no reason England should be any different.)

The boyfriend arrived in the supermarket and struck a man a heavy blow to the head. He fell to the ground and died of his head injury. When told that he had got the « wrong » man, the assailant said he would have attacked the « right » one had he not been restrained. He was sentenced to serve not more than 30 months in prison. Since punishments must be in proportion to the seriousness of the crime, a sentence like this exerts tremendous downward pressure on sentences for lesser, but still serious, crimes.

So several things need to be done, among them the reform and even dismantlement of the educational and social-security systems, the liberalization of the labor laws, and the much firmer repression of crime.

David Cameron is not the man for the job.

Theodore Dalrymple is the pen name of the physician Anthony Daniels.


Opération Géronimo: Oui, Ben Laden était bien un lâche (Navy Seal who killed Bin Laden reveals scariest prospect of his trade: civilian life)

17 février, 2013
Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended. George Bush
Connaissez votre ennemi, enseigne Clausewitz, et vous pourrez le combattre. Malgré nos premiers succès en Afghanistan, il n’est pas sûr que nous comprenions très bien le nôtre. En effet, cette incompréhension américaine est devenue flagrante dans les jours qui ont suivi le 11 septembre, lorsque nos dirigeants et experts n’ont cessé de marteler que les terroristes étaient des  » lâches « , des  » lâches anonymes « . Le président Bush a été le premier à employer cette expression, largement répétée par la suite. L’idée sous-jacente est que les terroristes ont visé lâchement des femmes et des enfants. Ce qu’ils n’ont pas fait, bien entendu. Qui se trouvait à bord des avions détournés ou dans le World Trade Center ne leur importait guère. De fait, la plupart des victimes furent des hommes. Les cibles des terroristes représentaient les symboles du capitalisme et du gouvernement américains. L’une d’elles était le Pentagone, c’est-à-dire, sans doute possible, un objectif militaire. En règle générale, nous traitons de lâches ceux qui s’en prennent aux femmes et aux enfants parce qu’ils cherchent à parvenir à leurs fins à moindres risques. En l’espèce, cependant, les terroristes sont allés au-devant d’une mort certaine avec une apparente égalité d’âme. A l’exemple des kamikazes, ils étaient des fanatiques, certainement pas des lâches. Dinesh D’Souza
C’est nous qui sommes lâches en envoyant des missiles à 2000 miles de distance. Ça, c’est de la lâcheté. Rester dans un avion qui va se crasher dans un building, on peut dire ce qu’on veut, ce n’est pas de la lâcheté.  Bill Maher
Que nous ayons rêvé de cet événement, que tout le monde sans exception en ait rêvé, parce que nul ne peut ne pas rêver de la destruction de n’importe quelle puissance devenue à ce point hégémonique, cela est inacceptable pour la conscience morale occidentale, mais c’est pourtant un fait, et qui se mesure justement à la violence pathétique de tous les discours qui veulent l’effacer. A la limite, c’est eux qui l’ont fait, mais c’est nous qui l’avons voulu. (…) Il faut se rendre à l’évidence qu’est né un terrorisme nouveau, une forme d’action nouvelle qui joue le jeu et s’approprie les règles du jeu pour mieux le perturber. Non seulement ces gens-là ne luttent pas à armes égales, puisqu’ils mettent en jeu leur propre mort, à laquelle il n’y a pas de réponse possible (« ce sont des lâches »), mais ils se sont approprié toutes les armes de la puissance dominante. L’argent et la spéculation boursière, les technologies informatiques et aéronautiques, la dimension spectaculaire et les réseaux médiatiques : ils ont tout assimilé de la modernité et de la mondialité, sans changer de cap, qui est de la détruire. Comble de ruse, ils ont même utilisé la banalité de la vie quotidienne américaine comme masque et double jeu. Dormant dans leurs banlieues, lisant et étudiant en famille, avant de se réveiller d’un jour à l’autre comme des bombes à retardement. La maîtrise sans faille de cette clandestinité est presque aussi terroriste que l’acte spectaculaire du 11 septembre. Car elle jette la suspicion sur n’importe quel individu : n’importe quel être inoffensif n’est-il pas un terroriste en puissance ? Si ceux-là ont pu passer inaperçus, alors chacun de nous est un criminel inaperçu (chaque avion devient lui aussi suspect), et au fond c’est peut-être vrai. Cela correspond peut-être bien à une forme inconsciente de criminalité potentielle, masquée, et soigneusement refoulée, mais toujours susceptible, sinon de resurgir, du moins de vibrer secrètement au spectacle du Mal. Ainsi l’événement se ramifie jusque dans le détail – source d’un terrorisme mental plus subtil encore. La différence radicale, c’est que les terroristes, tout en disposant des armes qui sont celles du système, disposent en plus d’une arme fatale : leur propre mort. S’ils se contentaient de combattre le système avec ses propres armes, ils seraient immédiatement éliminés. S’ils ne lui opposaient que leur propre mort, ils disparaîtraient tout aussi vite dans un sacrifice inutile – ce que le terrorisme a presque toujours fait jusqu’ici (ainsi les attentats-suicides palestiniens) et pour quoi il était voué à l’échec. Tout change dès lors qu’ils conjuguent tous les moyens modernes disponibles avec cette arme hautement symbolique. Celle-ci multiplie à l’infini le potentiel destructeur. C’est cette multiplication des facteurs (qui nous semblent à nous inconciliables) qui leur donne une telle supériorité. La stratégie du zéro mort, par contre, celle de la guerre « propre », technologique, passe précisément à côté de cette transfiguration de la puissance « réelle » par la puissance symbolique. La réussite prodigieuse d’un tel attentat fait problème, et pour y comprendre quelque chose il faut s’arracher à notre optique occidentale pour voir ce qui se passe dans leur organisation et dans la tête des terroristes. Une telle efficacité supposerait chez nous un maximum de calcul, de rationalité, que nous avons du mal à imaginer chez les autres. Et même dans ce cas, il y aurait toujours eu, comme dans n’importe quelle organisation rationnelle ou service secret, des fuites et des bavures. Donc le secret d’une telle réussite est ailleurs. La différence est qu’il ne s’agit pas, chez eux, d’un contrat de travail, mais d’un pacte et d’une obligation sacrificielle. Une telle obligation est à l’abri de toute défection et de toute corruption. Le miracle est de s’être adapté au réseau mondial, au protocole technique, sans rien perdre de cette complicité à la vie et à la mort. A l’inverse du contrat, le pacte ne lie pas des individus – même leur « suicide » n’est pas de l’héroïsme individuel, c’est un acte sacrificiel collectif scellé par une exigence idéale. Et c’est la conjugaison de deux dispositifs, celui d’une structure opérationnelle et d’un pacte symbolique, qui a rendu possible un acte d’une telle démesure. Tout est bon pour déconsidérer leurs actes. Ainsi les traiter de « suicidaires » et de « martyrs ». Pour ajouter aussitôt que le martyre ne prouve rien, qu’il n’a rien à voir avec la vérité, qu’il est même (en citant Nietzsche) l’ennemi numéro un de la vérité. Certes, leur mort ne prouve rien, mais il n’y a rien à prouver dans un système où la vérité elle-même est insaisissable – ou bien est-ce nous qui prétendons la détenir ? D’autre part, cet argument hautement moral se renverse. Si le martyre volontaire des kamikazes ne prouve rien, alors le martyre involontaire des victimes de l’attentat ne prouve rien non plus, et il y a quelque chose d’inconvenant et d’obscène à en faire un argument moral (cela ne préjuge en rien leur souffrance et leur mort). (…) C’est donc exactement le contraire de la lâcheté dont on les accuse, et c’est exactement le contraire de ce que font par exemple les Américains dans la guerre du Golfe (et qu’ils sont en train de reprendre en Afghanistan) : cible invisible, liquidation opérationnelle. Jean Baudrillard
Les attaques n’avaient rien de lâche; elles témoignaient plutôt d’un courage incroyable, quoique pervers.There was nothing cowardly about the attacks, which were deeds of incredible — albeit perverted — bravery. Daniel Pipes
« We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. BOP. BOP, » writes Owen. « I couldn’t tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the dark room. » Team members took their time entering the room, where they saw the women wailing over Bin Laden, who wore a white sleeveless T-shirt, loose tan pants and a tan tunic, according to the book. Despite numerous reports that bin Laden had a weapon and resisted when Navy SEALs entered the room, he was unarmed, writes Owen. He had been fatally wounded before they had entered the room. « Blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull” and he was still twitching and convulsing, Owen writes. While bin Laden was in his death throes, Owen writes that he and another SEAL « trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless. » Then the SEALS repeatedly examined his face to make sure he was truly bin Laden. They interrogated a young girl and one of the women who had been wailing over Bin Laden’s body, who verified that it was the terror leader. (…) Searching bin Laden’s neatly organized room, Owen found two guns -– an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol -– with empty chambers. “He hadn’t even prepared a defense. He had no intention of fighting. He asked his followers for decades to wear suicide vests or fly planes into buildings, but didn’t even pick up his weapon. In all of my deployments, we routinely saw this phenomenon. The higher up the food chain the targeted individual was, the bigger a pussy he was.” The Huffington Post
I’m not religious, but I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was. The Shooter
There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly toward me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion. It was his youngest wife, Amal. The SEALs had nightscopes, but it was coal-black for bin Laden and the other residents. He can hear but he can’t see. He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting. He had a cap on and didn’t appear to be hit. I can’t tell you 100 percent, but he was standing and moving. He was holding her in front of him. Maybe as a shield, I don’t know. (…) I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up]. In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath. The Shooter
« Jesus, these women are jumping in front of these guys. They’re trying to martyr themselves. Another sign that this is a serious place. Even if bin Laden isn’t here, someone important is. Navy Seal member
(Opening a closet door once, team members found a boy inside) The natural response was ‘C’mon kid.’ Then, boom, he blows himself up. Suicide bombers are fast. Other rooms and other places, « we’d go in and a guy would be sleeping. Up against the wall were his cologne, deodorant, soap, suicide vest, AK-47, and grenades. The Shooter
« When we first started the war in Iraq, we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them. Metallica got wind of this and they said, ‘Hey, please don’t use our music because we don’t want to promote violence.’ I thought, Dude, you have an album called Kill ‘Em All. But we stopped using their music, and then a band called Demon Hunter got in touch and said, ‘We’re all about promoting what you do.’ They sent us CDs and patches. I wore my Demon Hunter patch on every mission. I wore it when I blasted bin Laden. The Shooter
The bad part was security. He was their prophet, basically. Now we killed him and I have to worry about this forever. Al Qaeda, especially these days, is 99 percent talk. But that 1 percent of the time they do shit, it’s bad. They’re capable of horrific things. We listened to the Al Qaeda phone calls where one guy is saying, « We gotta find out who ratted on bin Laden. » The other guy says, « I heard he did it to himself. He was locked up in that house with three wives. » Funny terrorists.
« Our marriage was definitely a casualty of his career, » says the Shooter’s wife. They are officially split but still live together. Separate bedrooms, low overhead. « Somewhere along the line we lost track of each other. » She holds his priorities partially responsible: SEAL first, father second, husband third. This part of the Shooter’s story is, as his wife puts it, « unique to us but unfortunately not unique in the community. » SEAL operators are gone up to three hundred days a year. And when they’re not in theater, they’re training or soaking in the company of their buds in the absorbing clubhouse atmosphere of ST6 headquarters. « We can’t talk with anyone else about what we do, » the Shooter says, « or about anything else other than maybe skydiving and broken spleens. When it comes to socializing, it’s really tight. » His wife understands that « so much of their survival is dependent on the fact that their friends and their jobs are so intertwined. » And that « we lived our lives under a veil of secrecy. » SEAL Team 6 spouses are nicknamed the Pink Squadron, because the women also rely on their hermetic connections to other wives. When you have no idea where your husband is or what he’s doing, other than that it’s mortally dangerous, and you can’t discuss it — not even with your own mother — your world can feel desperately small.
« My wife doesn’t want me to stay in one more minute than I have to. (But he’s several years away from official retirement) « I agree that civilian life is scary. And I’ve got a family to take care of. Most of us have nothing to offer the public. We can track down and kill the enemy really well, but that’s it. If I get killed on this next deployment, I know my family will be taken care of. » (The Navy does offer decent life-insurance policies at low rates.) « College will be paid for, they’ll be fine. « But if I come back alive and retire, I won’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out for the rest of my life. Sad to say, it’s better if I get killed. » Navy Seal member
« It’s criminal to me that these guys walk out the door naked, » says retired Marine major general Mike Myatt. « They’re the greatest of their generation; they know how to get things done. If I were a Fortune 500 company, I’d try to get my hands on any one of them. » The general is standing in the mezzanine of the Marines Memorial building he runs in San Francisco. He’s had to expand the memorial around the corner due to so many deaths over the past eleven years of war. He is furious about the high unemployment rate among returning infantrymen, as well as homelessness, PTSD, and the other plagues of new veterans. General Myatt believes « the U.S. military is the best in the world at transitioning from civilian to military life and the worst in the world at transitioning back. » And that, he acknowledges, doesn’t even begin to consider the separate and distinct travesty visited on the Shooter and his comrades. The Special Operations men are special beyond their operations. « These guys are self-actualizers, » says a retired rear admiral and former SEAL I spoke with. « Top of the pyramid. If they wanted to build companies, they could. They can do anything they put their minds to. That’s how smart they are. » But what’s available to these superskilled retiring public servants? « Pretty much nothing, » says the admiral. « It’s ‘Thank you for your service, good luck.' » (…) One third-generation military man who has worked both inside and outside government, and who has fought for vets for decades, is sympathetic to the problem. But he notes that the Pentagon is dealing with two hundred thousand new veterans a year, compared with perhaps a few dozen SEALs. « Can and should the DOD spend the extra effort it would take to help the superelite guys get with exactly the kind of employers they should have? Investment bankers, say, value that competition, drive, and discipline, not to mention people with security clearances. They [Tier One vets] should be plugged in at executive levels. Any employers who think about it would want to hire these people. »
when a SEAL Team 6 movie character yells, « Breacher! » for someone to blow one of the doors of the Abbottabad compound, the Shooter says loudly, « Are you fucking kidding me? Shut up! » He explains afterward that no one would ever yell, « Breacher! » during an assault. Deadly silence is standard practice, a fist to the helmet sufficient signal for a SEAL with explosive packets to go to work. (…) But his criticisms at dinner afterward are minor. « The tattoo scene was horrible, » he says about a moment in the film when the ST6 assault group is lounging in Afghanistan waiting to go. « Those guys had little skulls or something instead of having some real ink that goes up to here. » He points to his shoulder blade. « It was fun to watch. There was just little stuff. The helos turned the wrong way [toward the target], and they talked way, way too much [during the assault itself]. If someone was waiting for you, they could track your movements that way. » The tactics on the screen « sucked, » he says, and « the mission in the damn movie took way too long » compared with the actual event. The stairs inside bin Laden’s building were configured inaccurately. A dog in the film was a German shepherd; the real one was a Belgian Malinois who’d previously been shot in the chest and survived. And there’s no talking on the choppers in real life. There was also no whispered calling out of bin Laden as the SEALs stared up the third-floor stairwell toward his bedroom. « When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name. » « They Hollywooded it up some. » The portrayal of the chief CIA human bloodhound, « Maya, » based on a real woman whose iron-willed assurance about the compound and its residents moved a government to action, was « awesome » says the Shooter. « They made her a tough woman, which she is. »
Most of our former or retired NSW members find a suitable second career without compromising the ideals of their active service – honor, courage and commitment. ‘Concerning recent writing and reporting on ‘The Shooter’ and his alleged situation, this former SEAL made a deliberate and informed decision to leave the Navy several years short of retirement status. Months ahead of his separation, he was counseled on status and benefits, and provided with options to continue his career until retirement eligible. Claims to the contrary in these matters are false. Rear Admiral Sean Pybus
Là, dans une chambre, il y avait Ben Laden, debout, tenant une femme par l’épaule et la poussant devant lui. Sa plus jeune femme, Amal. L’Express

Oui, Ben Laden était bien un lâche.

A l’heure où après l’hommage mérité du film de Kathyn Bigelow aux « petites gens qui font advenir les grands évènements » et qui ont permis il y a bientôt deux ans l’élimination d’un des plus grands criminels de l’histoire …

Chacun, entre livres et interviews, tente de se positionner pour l’inévitable exploitation du filon qui va suivre …

Retour, avec la toute récente interview par le magazine américan Esquire de l’homme qui a tué Ben Laden et derrière la polémique sur l’ingratitude supposée de l’Etat américain pour ses héros mais aussi la réelle inquiétude de ces derniers pour leur avenir et l’avenir de leur famile, sur un petit fait que nos belles âmes amnésiques se garderont probablement bien de rappeler

A savoir, contre les inepties débitées jusqu’ici par nos D’Souza et nos  Baudrillard ou même nos Daniel Pipes, la confirmation de visu de la lâcheté de ces prétendus terroristes d’un nouveau genre …

Dont le principal titre de gloire, comme l’avait bien vu dès le début le tant honni George Bush, se résume pour les uns à l’attaque suicide totalement indiscriminée de civils désarmés et pour les autres, comme Ben Laden lui-même derrière sa plus jeune femme, à la dissimulation derrière des boucliers humains …

Comment l’Amérique abandonne celui qui l’a vengée de Ben Laden

Celui qui a lavé l’honneur des Américains est aujourd’hui pratiquement démuni, abandonné, victime de l’ingratitude de ceux qui ont commandité sa mission.

Marion Cocquet

Le Point

16/02/2013

Par sécurité, dans la longue interview qu’il a accordée au magazine Esquire, on l’appelle « the shooter », le tireur. D’ailleurs, dans l’équipe ST6 des Navy Seals, dont il faisait partie, sa fonction était « sniper », tireur d’élite. Des missions clandestines pour abattre un responsable ennemi, avec le commando qu’il avait intégré, il en a fait des dizaines, en ex-Yougoslavie, en Irak, en Afghanistan. Combien de morts à son actif ? Il dit qu’il n’a pas compté. Mais il prétend qu’avec son équipe, ils ne sont pas pour rien dans la capacité qu’ont eue les Américains de se désengager d’Irak plus rapidement. Parce que les chefs qui semaient la terreur à Bagdad ou ailleurs avaient été systématiquement éliminés. En somme, il est la version humaine des drones tueurs dont se sert Obama aujourd’hui pour se débarrasser des responsables d’al-Qaida au Pakistan ou au Yémen.

Il a intégré les Navy Seals à 19 ans. Parce qu’une fille l’avait plaquée, il s’est présenté à un sergent recruteur de l’US Navy. « Vous vous rendez compte, plaisante-t-il, c’est parce qu’on m’a brisé le coeur qu’al-Qaida a été décapité ! » C’est le 1er avril 2011, alors qu’il s’entraînait à des exercices de plongée à Miami, qu’il a été convoqué avec ses compagnons au quartier général des Seals à Virginia Beach. Tout de suite, il a su que cette fois c’était du gros gibier, parce que, quelques jours plus tard, il s’est retrouvé dans un centre de la CIA à Harvey Point, en Caroline de Nord. Et surtout parce que c’est le général commandant des opérations spéciales qui s’est chargé du briefing habituel avant toute mission, dans une salle de conférences sévèrement gardée et sécurisée. Il a tout de suite annoncé la couleur : « Okay, nous n’avons jamais été aussi près d’OBL », les initiales d’Oussama Ben Laden. Suivirent des précisions sur le domaine d’Abbottabad, au Pakistan, dans lequel le terroriste avait été presque à coup sûr repéré, comment on observait l’endroit, analysait les allées et venues, la manière dont on avait reconstitué la configuration de la maison.

« Il n’y a aucun doute, c’est bien lui »

Le reste est routine : l’entraînement dans le Nevada sur une réplique de la maison d’Abbottabad. Les gestes cent fois répétés, les procédures précises pour chaque pièce de l’habitation, chaque porte à forcer ou à faire sauter, la localisation probable des habitants, leur nombre, combien de femmes, combien d’enfants. Puis c’est le départ pour la base de Jalalabad, en Afghanistan, dans un avion cargo C17 inconfortable. Là-bas, il rencontre Maya, l’analyste de la CIA qui traque Ben Laden depuis des mois et qui deviendra en 2013 l’héroïne du film Zero Dark Thirty. « À 100 %, lui dit-elle, il est au troisième étage. Il faut absolument que vous parveniez là-haut. » Elle lui dit qu’elle est étonnée de le voir si calme. Le « shooter » lui répond qu’avec ses camarades ils ont fait cela tant de nuits : « L’hélico nous dépose près d’une maison, on liquide ceux qui s’y trouvent et puis on s’en va. C’est juste un vol un peu plus long que d’habitude. »

Dans le récit qu’il fait à Esquire, c’est en effet une opération de routine, même si la cible est cette fois l’ennemi numéro un de l’Occident, le responsable de milliers de morts innocents. Après 90 minutes dans un hélicoptère, dont il redoute à tout moment qu’il ne soit repéré par les Pakistanais, c’est l’assaut de la villa d’Abbottabad. Le « shooter » n’est pas de la première équipe qui investit le bâtiment. Quand il y pénètre, il y a déjà des cadavres dans les escaliers, des femmes qui hurlent, des enfants qui pleurent. Il n’a qu’un obsession : le troisième étage. « Et là, dans une chambre, il y avait Ben Laden, debout, tenant une femme par l’épaule et la poussant devant lui. Sa plus jeune femme, Amal. Il est plus grand que je le pensais. Mais il n’y a aucun doute, c’est bien lui. Quand nous nous nous entraînions au tir, les cibles avaient son visage. » Grâce à ses lunettes de vision nocturne, il a évidemment l’avantage sur Ben Laden, qui entend mais ne voit rien car c’est le noir complet dans sa chambre. C’est au moment où le terroriste fait un geste en direction de son AK47 posé sur une étagère que l’Américain tire. Deux balles dans la tête presque coup sur coup, puis une troisième par sécurité quand l’homme glisse à terre, à côté de son lit. « Je me souviens que je l’ai regardé tenter de respirer une dernière fois et je me suis dit, est-ce la meilleure chose ou la pire que j’aie faite de ma vie ? »

« Qui a tué Ben Laden ? Nous tous ici »

À son retour de mission aux États-Unis, le « shooter » sera comme ses compagnons félicité par le président, lors d’une cérémonie très privée à la base de Fort Campbell, dans le Kentucky. Mais quand un des conseillers d’Obama posera la question : « Qui a tué Ben Laden ? » il répondra : « Nous tous ici. »

Mais on ne rentre pas indemne d’une telle affaire qui vient couronner des dizaines d’opérations commando du même genre. Le « shooter » ne veut plus entendre parler de ces actions pour tuer qu’autrefois il accomplissait sans états d’âme. En septembre 2012, il décide de démissionner des Navy Seals, après 16 ans de service actif. Il lui manque 36 mois pour atteindre la retraite. Et la loi américaine est implacable : il n’a droit à rien. Le vendredi où il démissionne, on l’avertit que le soir même sa couverture médicale et celle de sa famille cessent d’être valables et qu’il vient de toucher sa dernière solde. Aujourd’hui, d’après Esquire, il n’a pas retrouvé de job et se demande comment il va payer la pension de sa femme dont il est séparé et nourrir ses enfants.

« Aucun de ceux qui ont combattu pour leur pays dans des opérations lointaines ne doit avoir à se battre pour trouver un travail », avait déclaré Barack Obama lors d’une cérémonie en hommage aux anciens combattants. Celui qui a vengé l’Amérique du 11 Septembre en abattant son pire ennemi est pourtant aujourd’hui le symbole de l’extrême ingratitude que peuvent avoir parfois les États pour ceux qui ont risqué leur vie pour eux. D’autant que sa vie est constamment en danger, car, si l’Amérique l’a oublié, comme le dit, à la fin du film Zero Dark Thirty, un analyste de la CIA, « le shooter sera toujours pour les djihadistes du monde entier en tête de la liste des hommes à abattre ».

Voir aussi:

The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed

For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives.

Phil Bronstein

The Shooter

Esquire

March 2013

Phil Bronstein is the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and currently serves as executive chairman of the Center for Investigative Reporting. This piece was reported in cooperation with CIR.

The man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden sat in a wicker chair in my backyard, wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care.

It was a mild spring day, April 2012, and our small group, including a few of his friends and family, was shielded from the sun by the patchwork shadows of maple trees. But the Shooter was sweating as he talked about his uncertain future, his plans to leave the Navy and SEAL Team 6.

He stood up several times with an apologetic gripe about the heat, leaving a perspiration stain on the seat-back cushion. He paced. I didn’t know him well enough then to tell whether a glass of his favorite single malt, Lagavulin, was making him less or more edgy.

We would end up intimately familiar with each other’s lives. We’d have dinners, lots of Scotch. He’s played with my kids and my dogs and been a hilarious, engaging gentleman around my wife.

In my yard, the Shooter told his story about joining the Navy at nineteen, after a girl broke his heart. To escape, he almost by accident found himself in a Navy recruiter’s office. « He asked me what I was going to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be a sniper.

« He said, ‘Hey, we have snipers.’

« I said, ‘Seriously, dude. You do not have snipers in the Navy.’ But he brought me into his office and it was a pretty sweet deal. I signed up on a whim. »

« That’s the reason Al Qaeda has been decimated, » he joked, « because she broke my fucking heart. »

I would come to know about the Shooter’s hundreds of combat missions, his twelve long-term SEAL-team deployments, his thirty-plus kills of enemy combatants, often eyeball to eyeball. And we would talk for hours about the mission to get bin Laden and about how, over the celebrated corpse in front of them on a tarp in a hangar in Jalalabad, he had given the magazine from his rifle with all but three lethally spent bullets left in it to the female CIA analyst whose dogged intel work and intuition led the fighters into that night.

When I was first around him, as he talked I would always try to imagine the Shooter geared up and a foot away from bin Laden, whose life ended in the next moment with three shots to the center of his forehead. But my mind insisted on rendering the picture like a bad Photoshop job — Mao’s head superimposed on the Yangtze, or tourists taking photos with cardboard presidents outside the White House.

Bin Laden was, after all, the man CIA director Leon Panetta called « the most infamous terrorist in our time, » who devoured inordinate amounts of our collective cultural imagery for more than a decade. The number-one celebrity of evil. And the man in my backyard blew his lights out.

ST6 in particular is an enterprise requiring extraordinary teamwork, combined with more kinds of support in the field than any other unit in the history of the U.S. military.

Similarly, NASA marshaled thousands of people to put a man on the moon, and history records that Neil Armstrong first set his foot there, not the equally talented Buzz Aldrin.

Enough people connected to the SEALs and the bin Laden mission have confirmed for me that the Shooter was the « number two » behind the raid’s point man going up the stairs to bin Laden’s third-floor residence, and that he is the one who rolled through the bedroom door solo and confronted the surprisingly tall terrorist pushing his youngest wife, Amal, in front of him through the pitch-black room. The Shooter had to raise his gun higher than he expected.

The point man is the only one besides the Shooter who could verify the kill shots firsthand, and he did just that to another SEAL I spoke with. But even the point man was not in the room then, having tackled two women into the hallway, a crucial and heroic decision given that everyone living in the house was presumed to be wearing a suicide vest.

But a series of confidential conversations, detailed descriptions of mission debriefs, and other evidence make it clear: The Shooter’s is the most definitive account of those crucial few seconds, and his account, corroborated by multiple sources, establishes him as the last man to see Osama bin Laden alive. Not in dispute is the fact that others have claimed that they shot bin Laden when he was already dead, and a number of team members apparently did just that.

What is much harder to understand is that a man with hundreds of successful war missions, one of the most decorated combat veterans of our age, who capped his career by terminating bin Laden, has no landing pad in civilian life.

Back in April, he and some of his SEAL Team 6 colleagues had formed the skeleton of a company to help them transition out of the service. In my yard, he showed everyone his business-card mock-ups. There was only a subtle inside joke reference to their team in the company name.

Unlike former SEAL Team 6 member Matt Bissonnette (No Easy Day), they do not rush to write books or step forward publicly, because that violates the code of the « quiet professional. » Someone suggested they might sell customized sunglasses and other accessories special operators often invent and use in the field. It strains credulity that for a commando team leader who never got a single one of his men hurt on a mission, sunglasses would be his best option. And it’s a simple truth that those who have been most exposed to harrowing danger for the longest time during our recent unending wars now find themselves adrift in civilian life, trying desperately to adjust, often scrambling just to make ends meet.

At the time, the Shooter’s uncle had reached out to an executive at Electronic Arts, hoping that the company might need help with video-game scenarios once the Shooter retired. But the uncle cannot mention his nephew’s distinguishing feature as the one who put down bin Laden.

Secrecy is a thick blanket over our Special Forces that inelegantly covers them, technically forever. The twenty-three SEALs who flew into Pakistan that night were directed by their command the day they got back stateside about acting and speaking as though it had never happened.

« Right now we are pretty stacked with consultants, » the video-game man responded. « Thirty active and recently retired guys » for one game: Medal of Honor Warfighter. In fact, seven active-duty Team 6 SEALs would later be punished for advising EA while still in the Navy and supposedly revealing classified information. (One retired SEAL, a participant in the bin Laden raid, was also involved.)

With the focus and precision he’s learned, the Shooter waits and watches for the right way to exit, and adapt. Despite his foggy future, his past is deeply impressive. This is a man who is very pleased about his record of service to his country and has earned the respect of his peers.

« He’s taken monumental risks, » says the Shooter’s dad, struggling to contain the frustration that roughs the edges of his deep pride in his son. « But he’s unable to reap any reward. »

It’s not that there isn’t one. The U.S. government put a $25 million bounty on bin Laden that no one is likely to collect. Certainly not the SEALs who went on the mission nor the support and intelligence experts who helped make it all possible. Technology is the key to success in this case more than people, Washington officials have said.

The Shooter doesn’t care about that. « I’m not religious, but I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was. »

Others also knew, from the commander-in-chief on down. The bin Laden shooting was a staple of presidential-campaign brags. One big-budget movie, several books, and a whole drawerful of documentaries and TV films have fortified the brave images of the Shooter and his ST6 Red Squadron members.

There is commerce attached to the mission, and people are capitalizing. Just not the triggerman. While others collect, he is cautious and careful not to dishonor anyone. His manners come at his own expense.

« No one who fights for this country overseas should ever have to fight for a job, » Barack Obama said last Veterans’ Day, « or a roof over their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home. »

But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no healthcare for his wife and kids, no protection for himself or his family.

Since Abbottabad, he has trained his children to hide in their bathtub at the first sign of a problem as the safest, most fortified place in their house. His wife is familiar enough with the shotgun on their armoire to use it. She knows to sit on the bed, the weapon’s butt braced against the wall, and precisely what angle to shoot out through the bedroom door, if necessary. A knife is also on the dresser should she need a backup.

Then there is the « bolt » bag of clothes, food, and other provisions for the family meant to last them two weeks in hiding.

« Personally, » his wife told me recently, « I feel more threatened by a potential retaliatory terror attack on our community than I did eight years ago, » when her husband joined ST6.

When the White House identified SEAL Team 6 as those responsible, camera crews swarmed into their Virginia Beach neighborhood, taking shots of the SEALs’ homes.

After bin Laden’s face appeared on their TV in the days after the killing, the Shooter cautioned his older child not to mention the Al Qaeda leader’s name ever again « to anybody. It’s a bad name, a curse name. » His kid started referring to him instead as « Poopyface. » It’s a story he told affectionately on that April afternoon visit to my home.

He loves his kids and tears up only when he talks about saying goodbye to them before each and every deployment. « It’s so much easier when they’re asleep, » he says, « and I can just kiss them, wondering if this is the last time. » He’s thrilled to show video of his oldest in kick-boxing class. And he calls his wife « the perfect mother. »

In fact, the couple is officially separated, a common occurrence in ST6. SEAL marriages can be perilous. Husbands and fathers have been mostly away from their families since 9/11. But the Shooter and his wife continue to share a house on very friendly, even loving terms, largely to save money.

« We’re actually looking into changing my name, » the wife says. « Changing the kids’ names, taking my husband’s name off the house, paying off our cars. Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other. »

When the family asked about any kind of government protection should the Shooter’s name come out, they were advised that they could go into a witness-protection-like program.

Just as soon as the Department of Defense creates one.

« They [SEAL command] told me they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee » under an assumed identity. Like Mafia snitches, they would not be able to contact their families or friends. « We’d lose everything. »

« These guys have millions of dollars’ worth of knowledge and training in their heads, » says one of the group at my house, a former SEAL and mentor to the Shooter and others looking to make the transition out of what’s officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. « All sorts of executive function skills. That shouldn’t go to waste. »

The mentor himself took a familiar route — through Blackwater, then to the CIA, in both organizations as a paramilitary operator in Afghanistan.

Private security still seems like the smoothest job path, though many of these guys, including the Shooter, do not want to carry a gun ever again for professional use. The deaths of two contractors in Benghazi, both former SEALs the mentor knew, remind him that the battlefield risks do not go away.

By the time the Shooter visited me that first time in April, I had come to know more of the human face of what’s called Tier One Special Operations, in addition to the extraordinary skill and icy resolve. It is a privileged, consuming, and concerning look inside one of the most insular clubs on earth.

And I understood that he would face a world very different from the supportive one President Obama described at Arlington National Cemetery a few months before.

As I watched the Shooter navigate obstacles very different from the ones he faced so expertly in four war zones around the globe, I wondered: Is this how America treats its heroes? The ones President Obama called « the best of the best »? The ones Vice-President Biden called « the finest warriors in the history of the world »?

1 APRIL 2011: THE MISSION

The reason we knew this was a special mission, the Shooter said as our interviews about the bin Laden operation began, is because we’d just finished an Afghanistan deployment and were on a training trip, diving in Miami, when a few of us got recalled to the Command in Virginia Beach. Another ST6 team was on official standby — normally that’s the team that blows out for a contingency operation. But they were not chosen, to better cloak what was going to happen.

There was so much going on — the Libya thing, the Arab Spring. We knew something good was going to go down. We didn’t know how good.

The first day’s briefing, they actually kind of lied to us, being very vague. They mentioned underwater cables because of the earthquake in Japan or some craziness. They hinted at Libya. They said it was a compound somewhere in a bowl and we were going to have two aircraft get us there and we don’t know how many are inside but we have to get something out. You won’t have any air support.

I assumed it was WMD, a nuke, because why else are they sending us to Libya?

Every question the Red Squadron ST6 members asked was answered with, « Well, we can’t tell you that. » Or: « We don’t know. »

It was also weird that the entire Red Squadron was in town, but they kicked everyone out of the briefing except those guys who were going, twenty-three and four backups. We’d leave the room to get coffee and stuff, and the other guys were like, « Well, what are you guys doing? » We were telling them, « I have no idea. »

The Shooter was a mission team leader. Almost everyone chosen had a one or two ranking in the squadron, the most experienced guys. The group was split into four tactical teams, with the Shooter as leader of the external-security group — the dog, Cairo, two snipers, and a CIA interpreter to keep whoever might show up in the area out of the internal action.

The group left Virginia on a Sunday morning, April 10, to drive to the CIA’s Harvey Point, North Carolina, center for another briefing and the start of training. The Master Chief was saying JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] would be there, the Secretary of Defense might be there, the Pak/Afghan CIA desk, too. That’s when the wheels started spinning for me: This is big.

I’ve had some close calls with death, bullets flying past my head. Even just driving, weird stuff. Every time, I would tell my mother, « There’s no way I’m going to die, because I’m here to do something. » I’ve been saying that for twenty years. I don’t know what it is, but it’s something important.

By Monday the team was assembled in a big classroom inside a one-story building. They actually had security sitting outside. No one else was allowed in. A JSOC general, Pak/Afghan and other D.C. officials, and the ST6 commanding officer were there. The SEAL commander, cool as ever, said, « Okay, we’re as close as we’ve ever been to UBL. » And that was it. He kind of looked at us and we looked at him and nodded. There was none of that cheering bullshit. We were thinking, Yeah, okay, good. It’s about time that we kill this motherfucker. It was simple.

This is what I came for. Jealousies aside, one of us is going to have the best chance of killing this guy.

During the daylong briefing, the SEALs heard how the government found the compound in Abbottabad, how they were watching it, analyzing it, why they believed bin Laden might be there. He, UBL, had become known as the Pacer, the tall guy in satellite imagery who neither left nor mixed with the others.

It was the CIA woman, now immortalized in books and movies, who gave the briefing. « Yeah, » she told us. « We got him. This is him. This is my life’s work. I’m positive. »

By then, government and military officials had been considering four options. They were either going to bomb the piss out of the compound with two-thousand-pound ordnance, they were going to send us in, do some kind of joint thing with the Pakis, or try what was called a « hammer throw, » where a drone flies by and chucks one fucking bomb at the guy. But they didn’t want any collateral damage. And they wanted to make sure he was dead and not in a cave or a safe room.

After the group settled into « motel-like » rooms, with common areas that had TVs and a kitchen, the team started strategizing with a model of the compound on a large table. Then they drove to a full-scale mock-up for a walk-through. The next day the helos came and we started doing iteration training based on how we wanted to hit it.

Once I realized what was going on, I actually moved myself to one of the assault teams, even if I was no longer a team leader. We didn’t need that many guys on the exterior team, and I’ll go fast-rope on the roof with what I started calling the Martyrs Brigade, because as soon as we landed, I figured the house was going to blow up. But we were also going to be the guys in there first to kill him.

One sniper would also be on the roof to lean over and try to take a shot upside down. The rest of the team would rope again down to the third-floor windows and get your gun up fast because he’s probably standing there with his gun. If you fell, it would suck.

If the group made it inside, there were other issues. I’ve been in houses before with IEDs in them designed to blow everything up. They’d hang them in the middle of the room so it’s a bigger explosion.

I was usually the guy to joke around when we were planning these things — we all dick around a lot. But I was like, « Hey guys, we have to take this fucking serious. There’s a 90 percent chance this is a one-way mission. We’re gonna die, so let’s do this right. »

The discussions went on, almost a luxury. We’re used to going on the fly, five, six nights a week on deployment. Here’s your target, we’re leaving in twenty minutes. Come up with a plan. This compound was pretty easy, though we had no clue about the inside layout.

The group reviewed contingencies: How do we handle cars? What if a helo went down? What do we do if the helo doors don’t open? Shit like that.

The first helicopter was going to land in front of the house. We were going to put our external security out and our bird was going to go back up and we’d fast-rope onto the roof. So we’d have one assault team from the other chopper coming up the stairs, and we’d be going down.

It was March 2012, a blossoming time of year in the capital of the free world. The intimate dinner party was already under way at a stylish split-level apartment one block from the Washington Hilton. The hostess was a military contractor, and there was a lobbyist there, along with another young woman, a Capitol Hill veteran.

The Shooter’s mentor was behind the kitchen counter, putting a final grill-sauce flair on some huge slabs of red meat when four men, all of them imposing and fit, came through the front door.

The Shooter is thick, like a power lifter, with an audacious set of tattoos. He can be curt and dismissive as his default, but also wickedly funny. It’s instantly easy to see why he’s considered both a rebellious, pushy pain in the ass by his command and even some of his colleagues, but also a natural leader. An outgoing, charismatic, and determined alpha male in the ultimate alpha crowd.

He and his three friends were all active ST6 members that night, though none of the others present had been on the bin Laden mission.

This was my first face-to-face meeting with the Shooter, following several phone conversations and much checking on my journalism background, especially in war zones. In a corner, pouring drinks, he and I established some rules. He would consider talking to me only after his last, upcoming four-month deployment to Afghanistan had ended and he had exited the Navy. And he would not go public; he would not be named. That would be counter to the team’s code, and it would also put a huge « kill me » target on his back.

During the dinner, he told mostly personal stories and took care not to talk in terms of operational security: the deal about the gun magazine and the CIA analyst, the experience of eyeballing bin Laden.

« Three of us were driving to our first briefing on the mission, » he said. « We were thinking maybe it was Libya, but we knew there would be very high-level brass there. One of my guys says, ‘I bet it’s bin Laden.' » Another guy told the Shooter, « If it’s Osama bin Laden, dude, I will suck yo’ dick. »

« So after I shoot UBL, I bring him over to see his body. ‘Okay,’ I told him, ‘now is as good a time as any.' »

The group talked about hairy moments during other missions, stories soldiers and foreign correspondents enjoy swapping. But from the start something was obvious, not just about the Shooter but about his fellow SEALs, too: These men who had heroically faced death and exercised extraordinary violence in almost continuous battle for years on end were fearful of life after war.

This is a problem that is becoming more critical as the « best of the best » start leaving the most extended wartime careers in the history of the United States. And it is a problem not just for these men and their families but for the American government, which has come to rely heavily on a steady stream of Tier One special operators (including the Army’s Delta Force and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron) — men of rarefied toughness and training like these — to maintain a sense of international security in an asymmetrical battlefield. The American way of war has changed radically in the past decade, so that in the future, « boots on the ground » will more and more mean special operators. Which means that there will be increasing numbers of vets in the Shooter’s circumstance: abandoned, with limited choices.

That night, one of the Shooter’s comrades, lantern-jawed, articulate, with a serious academic pedigree, told me: « I’ve seen a lot of combat, been in some pretty grisly circumstances. But the thing that scares me the most after fifteen years in the SEALs?

« Civilian life. »

2. « 100 PERCENT, HE’S ON THE THIRD FLOOR. »

The Shooter and the rest of the team made one last night run on the mock-up of the compound in North Carolina, then drove back to their homes and headquarters in Virginia for a brief break.

There were goodbyes to his wife and sleeping children. Normally she’d say, ‘I’m fine, just go.’ This time there was nothing fine about her. Like this would be the last time we’d see each other.

Saying goodbye is just horrible. I don’t even want to talk about it… this is the last time I’m going to see these children.

The Shooter had bought himself $350 Prada sunglasses over the weekend, and much less expensive gifts for his kids. Which makes me a horrible father. But really, he just figured he’d die with some style on.

And think of the ad campaign: « If you only have one day to live… »

When we got to Nevada a few days later, where the team trained on another full-scale compound model, but this one crudely fashioned from shipping containers, we turned the corner, saw the helos we’d actually use, and I started laughing. I told the guys, « The odds just changed. There’s a 90 percent chance we’ll survive. » They asked why. I said, « I didn’t know they were sending us to war on a fucking Decepticon. »

For the mission, they’d be slipping through the night in the latest model of stealth Black Hawk helicopters.

There were days more training, run after run, punctuated by briefings by military brass. They asked us if we were ready. We told them, « Yeah, absolutely. This is going to be easy. »

This was ultimately an assault mission like hundreds he’d been on, different in only one respect.

A critical moment for the mission came when the tireless SEAL Red Team Squadron leader briefed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and Pentagon undersecretary Mike Vickers. He was going to sell it right then. Not just to his superiors but, through them, to the president.

We’re all in uniform to look professional, and our CO, working on no sleep for days, hit it out of the park. There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to go because of his presentation.

The group discussed what would happen if they were surrounded by Pakistani troops. We would surrender. The original plan was to have Vice-President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan’s president.

This is hearsay, but I understand Obama said, Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military? That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am fucking voting for this guy. I had a picture of him lying in bed at night, thinking, You’re not fucking with my guys. Like, he’s thinking about us.

We got word that we’d be scrambling jets on the border to back us up.

An Ambien, a C-17 cargo-plane ride, a short stop in Germany, and they were in Afghanistan.

At Jalalabad, the Shooter saw the CIA analyst pacing. She asked me why I was so calm. I told her, We do this every night. We go to a house, we fuck with some people, and we leave. This is just a longer flight. She looked at me and said, « One hundred percent he’s on the third floor. So get to there if you can. » She was probably 90 percent sure, and her emotion pushed that to 100.

Another SEAL squadron, which was already in Afghanistan and would have normally been the assaulters, were very welcoming to us. They would form the Quick Reaction Force flying in behind, on the 47’s. The Red Team visitors stayed in « transient » housing.

During the day, the group would work with our gear, work out. Nighttime was poker and refreshments, or what is called « fellowship, » while they waited for a go from Obama himself. On the treadmill, the Shooter listened to « Red Nation » by the rapper Game. It’s about leaving blood on the ground. We were the Red Team and we were going to leave some blood.

Other guys ginned up some mixed-martial-arts practice or stretched over foam rollers to keep their joints in good shape.

We all wrote letters. I had my shitty little room and I’m sitting on my Pelican case with all my gear, a manila envelope on my bed, and I’m writing letters to my kids. They were to be delivered in case of my death, something for them to read when they’re thirty-five. I have no idea what I said except I’m explaining everything, that it was a noble mission and I hope we got him. I’m saying I wish I could be there for them.

And the tears are hitting the page, because we all knew that none of us were coming back alive. It was either death or a Pakistani prison, where we’d be raped for the rest of our lives.

He gave the letters to an intel guy not on the mission, with instructions. He would shred them if he made it back.

You write it, it’s horrible, you hand it off, and it’s like, Okay, that part’s over. And I’m back, ready to roll.

By early September of last year, the Shooter was out, officially. Retired.

He had survived his last deployment, and there was a barbecue near his house to celebrate with about thirty close friends from « the community. » The Redskins were on, his favorite team, and there was lots of Commando ale, brewed by a former SEAL.

« I left SEALs on Friday, » he said the next time I saw him. It was a little more than thirty-six months before the official retirement requirement of twenty years of service. « My health care for me and my family stopped at midnight Friday night. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You’re out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years. Go fuck yourself. »

The government does provide 180 days of transitional health-care benefits, but the Shooter is eligible only if he agrees to remain on active duty « in a support role, » or become a reservist. Either way, his life would not be his own. Instead, he’ll buy private insurance for $486 a month, but some treatments that relieve his wartime pains, like $120 for weekly chiropractic care, are out-of-pocket. Like many vets, he will have to wait at least eight months to have his disability claims adjudicated. Or even longer. The average wait time nationally is more than nine months, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Center for Investigative Reporting’s interactive map of U.S. veterans still waiting for help due to backlogged disability claims.

Anyone who leaves early also gets no pension, so he is without income. Even if he had stayed in for the full twenty, his pension would have been half his base pay: $2,197 a month. The same as a member of the Navy choir.

Still, on this early fall weekend, he does not want to commit to publishing any information from or about him. The book by a friend and fellow ST6 member, Matt Bissonnette, who claims to have shot bin Laden in the chest when the Al Qaeda leader was already down and bleeding profusely, will go on sale in a few days. The Department of Defense was threatening legal action over breach of confidentiality agreements and revelation of supposedly classified material. And the Shooter refuses to identify Bissonnette by name or confirm that he is the colleague who wrote the book. « I still want him and his family to be safe no matter what, » he says. « If he didn’t want [his name] out, I shouldn’t either. That is my thinking, anyway. »

Many in the community are also infuriated, the Shooter says. « There’s a shitstorm around this. » It has also come to his attention that Bissonnette’s account tends to gloss over — if not erase — the Shooter’s central role in bin Laden’s death.

« I don’t know why he’d do that, » the Shooter says.

Almost since the mission was done, the Shooter himself was suspected by the SEAL command and other team members of being the one who was writing a book, the one who would be first to market, spinning gold off Abbottabad.

CIA and FBI officials called to ask whether he was going to appear with Bissonnette on 60 Minutes.

When it became clear that he wasn’t the opportunist, there was an official effort at apology from his superiors and some individual SEALs.

The Shooter had long ago decided not to write a book out of the gate, though he is keenly aware that Bissonnette’s book will make millions. There is still loyalty and safety to consider. He also wanted to see how Bissonnette fared with his colleagues, the U.S. government, and others.

Bissonnette’s pseudonym — Mark Owen — lasted about a day before his real name surfaced and was promptly posted on a jihadi Web site.

But it was his official separation from the Navy that convinced the Shooter that he should get his story down somewhere, both for history and for a potential « greater good, » to both humanize his warrior friends as something more complex than Jason Bourne cartoon superheroes, and call attention to what retiring SEALs don’t get in their complex bargain with their country.

3. »HEY, MAN, I JUST SHOT A WOMAN. »

Waiting in Jalalabad, the teams were getting feedback from Washington. Gates didn’t want to do this, Hillary didn’t want to do that.

The Shooter still thought, We’d train, spin up, then spin down. They’d eventually tank the op and just bomb it.

But then the word came to Vice Admiral William McRaven, head of Joint Special Operations Command. The mission was on, originally for April 30, the night of the White House Correspondents’ dinner in Washington.

McRaven figured it would look bad if all sorts of officials got up and left the dinner in front of the press. So he came up with a cover story about the weather so we could launch on Sunday, May 1, instead.

There was one last briefing and an awesome speech from McRaven comparing the looming raid and its fighters to the movie Hoosiers.

Then they’re gathered by a fire pit, suiting up. Just before he got on the chopper to leave for Abbottabad, the Shooter called his dad. I didn’t know where he was, but I found out later he was in a Walmart parking lot. I said, « Hey, it’s time to go to work, » and I’m thinking, I’m calling for the last time. I thought there was a good chance of dying.

He knew something significant was up, though he didn’t know what. The Shooter could hear him start to tear up. He told me later that he sat in his pickup in that parking lot for an hour and couldn’t get out of the car.

The Red Team and members of the other squad hugged one another instead of the usual handshakes before they boarded their separate aircraft. The hangars had huge stadium lights pointing outward so no one from the outside could see what was going on.

I took one last piss on the bushes.

Ninety minutes in the chopper to get from Jalalabad to Abbottabad. The Shooter noted when the bird turned right, into Pakistani airspace.

I was sitting next to the commanding officer, and he’s relaying everything to McRaven.

I was counting back and forth to a thousand to pass the time. It’s a long flight, but we brought these collapsible camping chairs, so we’re not uncomfortable. But it’s getting old and you’re ready to go and you don’t want your legs falling asleep.

Every fifteen minutes they’d tell us we hadn’t been painted [made by Pakistani radar].

I remember banking to the south, which meant we were getting ready to hit. We had about another fifteen minutes. Instead of counting, for some reason I said to myself the George Bush 9/11 quote: Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended. I could just hear his voice, and that was neat. I started saying it again and again to myself. Then I started to get pumped up. I’m like: This is so on.

I was concerned for the two [MH-47 Chinook] big-boat choppers crossing the Pakistani border forty-five minutes after we did, both full of my guys from the other squadron, the backup and extraction group. The 47’s have some awesome antiradar shit on them, too. But it’s still a school bus flying into a sovereign nation. If the Pakistanis don’t like it, they can send a jet in to shoot them down.

Flying in, we were all just sort of in our own world. My biggest concern was having to piss really bad and then having to get off in a fight needing to pee. We actually had these things made for us, like a combination collapsible dog bowl and diaper. I still have mine; I never used it. I used one of my water bottles instead. I forgot until later that when I shot bin Laden in the face, I had a bottle of piss in my pocket.

I would have pissed my pants rather than trying to fight with a full bladder.

Above the compound, the Shooter could hear only his helo pilot in the flight noise. « Dash 1 going around » meant the other chopper was circling back around. I thought they’d taken fire and were just moving. I didn’t realize they crashed right then. But our pilot did. He put our five perimeter guys out, went up, and went right back down outside the compound, so we knew something was wrong. We weren’t sure what the fuck it was.

We opened the doors, and I looked out.

The area looked different than where we trained because we’re in Pakistan now. There are the lights, the city. There’s a golf course. And we’re, This is some serious Navy SEAL shit we’re going to do. This is so badass. My foot hit the ground and I was still running [the Bush quote] in my head. I don’t care if I die right now. This is so awesome. There was concern, but no fear.

I was carrying a big-ass sledgehammer to blow through a wall if we had to. There was a gate on the northeast corner and we went right to that. We put a breaching charge on it, clacked it, and the door peeled like a tin can. But it was a fake gate with a wall behind it. That was good, because we knew that someone was defending themselves. There’s something good here.

We walked down the main long wall to get to the driveway to breach the door there. We were about to blow that next door on the north end when one of the guys from the bird that crashed came around the other side and opened it.

So we were moving down the driveway and I looked to the left. The compound was exactly the same. The mock-up had been dead-on. To actually be there and see the house with the three stories, the blacked-out windows, high walls, and barbed wire — and I’m actually in that security driveway with the carport, just like the satellite photos. I was like, This is really cool I’m here.

While we were in the carport, I heard gunfire from two different places nearby. In one flurry, a SEAL shot Abrar al-Kuwaiti, the brother of bin Laden’s courier, and his wife, Bushra. One of our guys involved told me, « Jesus, these women are jumping in front of these guys. They’re trying to martyr themselves. Another sign that this is a serious place. Even if bin Laden isn’t here, someone important is. »

We crossed to the south side of the main building. There the Shooter ran into another team member, who told him, « Hey, man, I just shot a woman. » He was worried. I told him not to be. « We should be thinking about the mission, not about going to jail. »

For the Shooter personally, bin Laden was one bookend in a black-ops career that was coming to an end. But the road to Abbottabad was long, starting with the guys who tried and failed to make it into the SEALs in the first place. Up to 80 percent of applicants wash out, and some almost die trying.

In fact, during the Shooter’s Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in the mid-nineties, the torture-chamber menu of physical and emotional resistance and resolve required to get into the SEALs, there was actually a death and resurrection.

« One of the tests is they make you dive to the bottom of a pool and tie five knots, » the Shooter says. « One guy got to the fifth knot and blacked out underwater. We pulled him up and he was, like, dead. They made the class face the fence while they tried to resuscitate him. The first words as he spit out water were ‘Did I pass? Did I tie the fifth knot?’ The instructor told him, ‘We didn’t want to find out if you could tie the knots, you asshole, we wanted to know how hard you’d push yourself. You killed yourself. You passed.' »

« I’ve been drown-proofed once, and it does suck, » the Shooter says.

Then there is Green Team, the lead-heavy door of entry for SEAL Team 6. Half of the men who are already hardened SEALs don’t make it through. « They get in your mind and make you think fast and make decisions during high stress. »

There have been SEAL teams since the Kennedy years, when they got their first real workout against the Vietcong around Da Nang and in the Mekong Delta, and even during periods of relative peace since Vietnam, SEAL teams have been deployed around the world. But at no time have they been more active than in the period since 2001, in the longest war ever fought by Americans.

If the surge in Iraq ordered by President Bush in 2007 was at all successful, that success is owed significantly to the night-shift work done by SEAL Team 6.

« We would go kill high-value targets every night, » the Shooter tells me. He and other ST6 members who would later be on the Abbottabad trip lived in rough huts with mud floors and cots. « But we were completely disrupting Al Qaeda and other Iraqi networks. If we only killed five or six guys a night, we were wasting our time. We knew this was the greatest moment of our operational lives. »

From Al Asad to Ramadi to Baghdad to Baquba — Al Qaeda central at the time — the SEALs had latitude to go after « everyone we thought we had to kill. That’s really a major reason the surge was going so well, because terrorists were dying strategically. »

During one raid, accompanied by two dogs, the Shooter says that he and his team wiped out « an entire spiderweb network. » Villagers told Iraqi newspapers the next day that « Ninjas came with lions. »

It is important to him to stress that no women or children were killed in that raid. He also insists that when it came to interrogation, repetitive questioning and leveraging fear was as aggressive as he’d go. « When we first started the war in Iraq, we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them, » the Shooter says. « Metallica got wind of this and they said, ‘Hey, please don’t use our music because we don’t want to promote violence.’ I thought, Dude, you have an album called Kill ‘Em All.

« But we stopped using their music, and then a band called Demon Hunter got in touch and said, ‘We’re all about promoting what you do.’ They sent us CDs and patches. I wore my Demon Hunter patch on every mission. I wore it when I blasted bin Laden. »

On deployment in Afghanistan or Iraq, they would « eat, work out, play Xbox, study languages, do schoolwork. » And watch the biker series Sons of Anarchy, Entourage, and three or four seasons of The Shield.

They were rural high school football stars, backwoods game hunters, and Ivy League graduates thrown together by a serious devotion to the cause, and to the action. Accessories, upbringing, and cultural tastes were just preamble, though, to the real work. As for the Shooter, he jokes that his choice in life was to « go to the SEALs or go to jail. » Not that he would have ever found himself behind bars, but he points out traits that all SEALs seem to have in common: the willingness to live beyond the edge, and to do anything, and the resolve to never quit.

The bin Laden mission was far from the most dangerous of his career. Once, he was pinned down near Asadabad, Afghanistan, while the SEALs were trying to disrupt Al Qaeda supply lines used to ambush Americans.

« Bullets flew between my gun and my face, » he says, just as he was inserting some of his favorite Copenhagen chew and then open-field sprinting to retrieve some special equipment he had dropped. That fight ended when he called in air strikes along the eastern Afghan border to light up the enemy.

Opening a closet door once, team members found a boy inside. « The natural response was ‘C’mon kid.’ Then, boom, he blows himself up. Suicide bombers are fast. Other rooms and other places, « we’d go in and a guy would be sleeping. Up against the wall were his cologne, deodorant, soap, suicide vest, AK-47, and grenades. »

He’s also had to collect body parts of his close friends, most notably when a SEAL team chopper was shot down in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in June 2005, killing eight SEALs. « We go to a lot of funerals. »

But for all the big battle boasts that become a sort of currency among SEALs, the Shooter has a deep fondness for the comedy that comes from being around the bunch of guys who are the only people in the world with whom you have so much in common and the only people in the world who can know exactly what you do for a living.

« I realized when I joined I had to be a better shot and step up my humor. These guys were hilarious. »

There are the now-famous pranks with a giant dildo — they called it the Staff of Power — discovered during training in an abandoned Miami building. SEALs would find photos of it inserted into their gas masks or at the bottom of a barrel of animal crackers they were eating. Goats were put in their personal cages at ST6 headquarters. Uniforms were borrowed and dyed pink. Boots were glued to the floor. Flash-bang grenades went off in their gear.

The area near the Shooter’s cage was such a target for outlandish stunts that it was called the Gaza Strip.

Even in action, with all their high state of expertise and readiness, « we’re normal people. We fall off ladders, land on the wrong roof, get bitten by dogs. » In Iraq, a breacher was putting a charge on a door to blow it off its hinges when he mistakenly leaned against the doorbell. He quickly took off the charge and the target opened the door. We were like, « You rang the fucking doorbell?! » Maybe we should try that more often, the Shooter thought to himself.

The dead can also be funny, as long as it’s not your guys. « In Afghanistan we were cutting away the clothes on this dead dude to see if he had a suicide vest on, only to find that he had a huge dick, down to his knees. From then on, we called him Abu Dujan Holmes.

And then there was the time that the Shooter shit himself on a tandem jump with a huge SEAL who outweighed him by sixty pounds. « The goddamn main chute yanked so hard he slipped two disks in his neck and I filled my socks with human feces. I told him, ‘Hey, dude, this is a horrible day.’ He said if I went to our reserve chute, ‘you’re gonna fucking kill me.’ He was that convinced his head was going to rip off his body.

« Okay, so I’m flying this broken chute, shitting my pants with this near-dead guy connected to me. And we eat shit on the landing. We’re lying there and the chute is dragging us across the ground. I hear him go, ‘Yeah, that’s my last jump for today.’ And I said, ‘That’s cool. Can I borrow your boxers?’

« We jumped the next day. »

The Shooter’s willingness to endure comes from a deep personal well of confidence and drive that seems to also describe every one of his peers. But his odyssey through countless outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq to skydives into the Indian Ocean — situations that are always strewn with violence and with his own death always imminent — is grounded by a sense of deep confederacy.

« I’m lucky to be with these guys. I’m not going to let them down. I was going to go in for a few years, but then I met these other guys and stuck around because of them. » He and one buddy made their first kills at exactly the same time, in Ramadi. Shared bloodletting is as much a bonding agent as shared blood.

After Team 6 SEAL Adam Brown was killed in March 2010, Brown’s squadron members approached the dead man’s kids at the funeral. They were screaming and inconsolable. « You may have lost a father, » one of them said, « but you’ve gained twenty fathers. »

Most of those SEALs would be killed the next year when their helicopter was shot down in eastern Wardak province.

The Shooter feels both the losses and connections no less keenly now that he’s out. « One of my closest friends in the world I’ve been with in SEAL Team 6 the whole time, » he says.

The Shooter’s friend is also looking for a viable exit from the Navy. As he prepared to deploy again, he agreed to talk with me on the condition that I not identify him.

« My wife doesn’t want me to stay in one more minute than I have to, » he says. But he’s several years away from official retirement. « I agree that civilian life is scary. And I’ve got a family to take care of. Most of us have nothing to offer the public. We can track down and kill the enemy really well, but that’s it.

« If I get killed on this next deployment, I know my family will be taken care of. » (The Navy does offer decent life-insurance policies at low rates.) « College will be paid for, they’ll be fine.

« But if I come back alive and retire, I won’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out for the rest of my life. Sad to say, it’s better if I get killed. »

4. »IS THIS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER DONE, OR THE WORST? »

When we entered the main building, there was a hallway with rooms off to the side. Dead ahead is the door to go upstairs. There were women screaming downstairs. They saw the others get shot, so they were upset. I saw a girl, about five, crying in the corner, first room on the right as we were going in. I went, picked her up, and brought her to another woman in the room on the left so she didn’t have to be just with us. She seemed too out of it to be scared. There had to be fifteen people downstairs, all sleeping together in that one room. Two dead bodies were also in there.

Normally, the SEALs have a support or communications guy who watches the women and children. But this was a pared-down mission intended strictly for an assault, without that extra help. We didn’t really have anyone that could stay back.

So we’re looking down the hallway at the door to the stairwell. I figured this was the only door to get upstairs, which means the people upstairs can’t get down. If there had been another way up, we would have found it by then.

We were at a standstill on the ground floor, waiting for the breacher to do his work.

We’d always assumed we’d be surrounded at some point. You see the videos of him walking around and he’s got all those jihadis. But they weren’t prepared. They got all complacent. The guys that could shoot shot, but we were on top of them so fast.

Right then, I heard one of the guys talking about something, blah, blah, blah, the helo crashed. I asked, What helo crashed? He said it was in the yard. And I said, Bullshit! We’re never getting out of here now. We have to kill this guy. I thought we’d have to steal cars and drive to Islamabad. Because the other option was to stick around and wait for the Pakistani military to show up. Hopefully, we don’t shoot it out with them. We’re going to end up in prison here, with someone negotiating for us, and that’s just bad. That’s when I got concerned.

I’ve thought about death before, when I’ve been pinned down for an hour getting shot at. And I wondered what it was going to feel like taking one of those in the face. How long was it going to hurt? But I didn’t think about that here.

One of the snipers who’d seen the disabled helo approached just before they went into the main building. He said, « Hey, dude, they’ve got an awesome mock-up of our helo in their yard. » I said, « No, dude. They shot one of ours down. » He said, « Okay, that makes more sense than the shit I was saying. »

The breacher had to blast the door twice for it to open. We started rolling up.

Team members didn’t need much communication, or any orders, once they were on line. We’re reading each other every second. We’ve gotten so good at war, we didn’t need anything more.

I was about five guys back on the stairway when I saw the point man holding up. He’d seen Khalid, bin Laden’s [twenty-three-year-old] son. I heard him whisper, « Khalid… come here… » in Arabic, then in Pashto. He used his name. That confused Khalid. He’s probably thinking, « I just heard shitty Arabic and shitty Pashto. Who the fuck is this? » He leaned out, armed with an AK, and he got blasted by the point man. That call-out was one of the best combat moves I’ve ever seen. Khalid had on a white T-shirt and, like, white pajama pants. He was the last line of security.

I remember thinking then: I wish we could live through this night, because this is amazing. I was still expecting all kinds of funky shit like escape slides or safe rooms.

The point man moved past doors on the second floor and the four or five guys in front of me started to peel off to clear those rooms, which is always how the flow works. We’re just clearing as we go, watching our backs.

They step over and past Khalid, who’s dead on the stairs.

The point man, at that time, saw a guy on the third floor, peeking around a curtain in front of the hallway. Bin Laden was the only adult male left to find. The point man took a shot, maybe two, and the man upstairs disappeared back into a room. I didn’t see that because I was looking back.

I don’t think he hit him. He thinks he might have.

So there’s the point man on the stairs, waiting for someone to move into the number-two position. Originally I was five or six man, but the train flowed off to clear the second floor. So I roll up behind him. He told me later, « I knew I had some ass, » meaning somebody to back him up. I turn around and look. There’s nobody else coming up.

On the third floor, there were two chicks yelling at us and the point man was yelling at them and he said to me, « Hey, we need to get moving. These bitches is getting truculent. » I remember saying to myself, Truculent? Really? Love that word.

I kept looking behind us, and there was still no one else there.

By then we realized we weren’t getting more guys. We had to move, because bin Laden is now going to be grabbing some weapon because he’s getting shot at. I had my hand on the point man’s shoulder and squeezed, a signal to go. The two of us went up. On the third floor, he tackled the two women in the hallway right outside the first door on the right, moving them past it just enough. He thought he was going to absorb the blast of suicide vests; he was going to kill himself so I could get the shot. It was the most heroic thing I’ve ever seen.

I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway.

There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly toward me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion. It was his youngest wife, Amal.

The SEALs had nightscopes, but it was coal-black for bin Laden and the other residents. He can hear but he can’t see.

He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting. He had a cap on and didn’t appear to be hit. I can’t tell you 100 percent, but he was standing and moving. He was holding her in front of him. Maybe as a shield, I don’t know.

For me, it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him. Even in our kill houses where we train, there are targets with his face on them. This was repetition and muscle memory. That’s him, boom, done.

I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once. He was wearing one of those white hats, but he had, like, an almost shaved head. Like a crew cut. I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us, and it didn’t seem like he would be, because all those guys were always smaller than you think.

I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].

In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.

And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him. Holy shit.

Everybody wanted him dead, but nobody wanted to say, Hey, you’re going to kill this guy. It was just sort of understood that’s what we wanted to do.

His forehead was gruesome. It was split open in the shape of a V. I could see his brains spilling out over his face. The American public doesn’t want to know what that looks like.

Amal turned back, and she was screaming, first at bin Laden and then at me. She came at me like she wanted to fight me, or that she wanted to die instead of him. So I put her on the bed, bound with zip ties. Then I realized that bin Laden’s youngest son, who is about two or three, was standing there on the other side of the bed. I didn’t want to hurt him, because I’m not a savage. There was a lot of screaming, he was crying, just in shock. I didn’t like that he was scared. He’s a kid, and had nothing to do with this. I picked him up and put him next to his mother. I put some water on his face.

The point man came in and zip-tied the other two women he’d grabbed.

The third-floor action and killing took maybe fifteen seconds.

The Shooter’s oldest child calls the place his dad worked « Crapghanistan, » maybe because his deployments meant he regularly missed Christmases, birthdays, and other holidays.

« Our marriage was definitely a casualty of his career, » says the Shooter’s wife. They are officially split but still live together. Separate bedrooms, low overhead. « Somewhere along the line we lost track of each other. » She holds his priorities partially responsible: SEAL first, father second, husband third.

This part of the Shooter’s story is, as his wife puts it, « unique to us but unfortunately not unique in the community. »

SEAL operators are gone up to three hundred days a year. And when they’re not in theater, they’re training or soaking in the company of their buds in the absorbing clubhouse atmosphere of ST6 headquarters.

« We can’t talk with anyone else about what we do, » the Shooter says, « or about anything else other than maybe skydiving and broken spleens. When it comes to socializing, it’s really tight. »

His wife understands that « so much of their survival is dependent on the fact that their friends and their jobs are so intertwined. » And that « we lived our lives under a veil of secrecy. »

SEAL Team 6 spouses are nicknamed the Pink Squadron, because the women also rely on their hermetic connections to other wives. When you have no idea where your husband is or what he’s doing, other than that it’s mortally dangerous, and you can’t discuss it — not even with your own mother — your world can feel desperately small.

But his wife’s concerns, and her own narrative, convey a faithfulness that extends beyond marital fidelity.

She has comforted him when he was « inconsolable » after a mission in which he shot the parents of a boy in a crossfire. « He was reliving it, as a dad himself, when he was telling me. » Not long after, she tended to him when she found him heavily sedated with an open bottle of Ambien and his pistol nearby.

The command had mandatory psych evaluations. During one of those, the Shooter told the psychologist, « I was having suicidal thoughts and drinking too much. » The doctor’s response? « He told me this was normal for SEALs after combat deployment. He told me I should just drink less and not hurt anybody. »

The Shooter’s wife is indignant. « That’s not normal! » Though she knows that « every time you send your husband off to war, you get a slightly different person back. »

The alone times are deeply trying.

Several years ago, a SEAL friend had died in a helicopter crash. The Shooter’s wife had just been to his funeral, consoling his widow. The Shooter was on the same deployment, and she had not heard anything about his status.

« I came home and was inside holding our infant child. Our front door is all glass, and I see a man in a khaki uniform coming up the steps. All I could do was think, I’d better put the baby down because I’m going to faint. So I set the baby on the floor and answered the door. It was a neighbor with a baby bib I’d dropped outside. I swore at him and slammed the door in his face. »

It was four days more before she heard that her husband was safe.

Given all of that, she has a surprising equanimity about her life. Talking with them separately, the couple’s love for each other is evident and deep. « We’ve grown so much together, » she says. « We’ll always be best friends. I’ll love him till the day I die. »

She remains in awe of « the level of brilliance these men have. To be surrounded by that caliber of people is something I’ll always be grateful for. »

Her husband’s retirement has been no less jarring for her. « He gave so much to his country, and now it seems he’s left in the dust. I feel there’s no support, not just for my family but for other families in the community. I honestly have nobody I can go to or talk to. Nor do I feel my husband has gotten much for what he’s accomplished in his career. »

Exactly what, if any, responsibility should the government have to her family?

The loss of income and insurance and no pension aside, she can no longer walk onto the local base if she feels a threat to her family. They’ve surrendered their military IDs. If something were to happen, the Shooter has instructed her to take the kids to the base gate anyway and demand to see the commanding officer, or someone from the SEAL team. « He said someone will come get us. »

Because of the mission, she says that « my family is always going to be at risk. It’s just a matter of finding coping strategies. »

The Shooter still dips his hand in his pocket when they’re in a store, checking for a knife in case there’s an emergency. He also keeps his eyes on the exits.

He’s lost some vision, he can’t get his neck straight for any period of time. Right now, she’s just waiting to see what he creates for himself in this new life.

And she’s waiting to see how he replaces even the $60,000 a year he was making (with special pay bonuses for different activities). Or how they can afford private health insurance that covers spinal injections she needs for her own sports injuries.

« This is new to us, not having the team. »

5. »WE ALL DID IT. »

Within another fifteen seconds, other team members started coming in the room. Here, the Shooter demurs about whether subsequent SEALs also fired into bin Laden’s body. He’s not feeding raw meat to what is an increasingly strict government focus on the etiquette of these missions. But I would have done it if I’d come in the room later. I knew I was going to shoot him if I saw him, regardless.

I even joked about that with the guys before we were there. « I don’t give a shit if you kill him — if I come in the room, I’m shooting his ass. I don’t care if he’s deader than fried chicken. »

In the compound, I thought about getting my camera, and I knew we needed to take pictures and ID him. We had a saying, « You kill him, you clean him. » But I was just in a little bit of a zone. I had to actually ask one of my friends who came into the room, « Hey, what do we do now? » He said, « Now we go find the computers. » And I remember saying, « Yes! I’m back! Got it! » Because I was almost stunned.

Then I just wanted to go get out of the house. We all had a DNA test kit, but I knew another team would be in there to do all that. So I went down to the second floor where the offices were, the media center. We started breaking apart the computer hard drives, cracking the towers. We were looking for thumb drives and disks, throwing them into our net bags.

In each computer room, there was a bed. Under the beds were these huge duffel bags, and I’m pulling them out, looking for whatever. At first I thought they were filled with vacuum-sealed rib-eye steaks. I thought, They’re in this for the long haul. They’ve got all this food. Then, wait a minute. This is raw opium. These drugs are everywhere. It was pretty funny to see that. Altogether, he helped clean three rooms on the second floor.

The Shooter did not see bin Laden’s body again until he and the point man helped two others carry it, already bagged, down the building’s hallways and out into the courtyard by the front gate. I saw a sniper buddy of mine down there and I told him, « That’s our guy. Hold on to him. » Others took the corpse to the surviving Black Hawk.

With one helo down, the Shooter was relieved to hear the sound of the 47 Chinook transports arriving. His exfil (extraction) flight out was on one of the 47’s, which had almost been blown out of the sky by the SEALs’ own explosive charges, set to destroy the downed Black Hawk.

One backup SEAL Team 6 member on the flight asked who’d killed UBL. I said I fucking killed him. He’s from New York and says, « No shit. On behalf of my family, thank you. » And I thought: Wow, I’ve got a Navy SEAL telling me thanks?

« You probably thought you’d never hear this, » someone piped through the intercom system over an hour into the return flight, « but welcome back to Afghanistan. »

Back at the Jalalabad base, we pulled bin Laden out of the bag to show McRaven and the CIA. That’s when McRaven had a tall SEAL lie down next to bin Laden to assess his height, along with other, slightly more scientific identity tests.

With the body laid out and under inspection, you could see more gunshot wounds to bin Laden’s chest and legs.

While they were still checking the body, I brought the agency woman over. I still had all my stuff on. We looked down and I asked, « Is that your guy? » She was crying. That’s when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a souvenir. Twenty-seven bullets left in it. « I hope you have room in your backpack for this. » That was the last time I saw her.

From there, the team accompanied the body to nearby Bagram Airfield. During the next few hours, the thought that hit me was « This is awesome. This is great. We lived. This is perfect. We just did it all. »

The moment truly struck at Bagram when I’m eating a breakfast sandwich, standing near bin Laden’s body, looking at a big-screen TV with the president announcing the raid. I’m sitting there watching him, looking at the body, looking at the president, eating a sausage-egg-cheese-and-extra-bacon sandwich thinking, « How the fuck did I get here? This is too much. »

I still didn’t know if it would be good or bad. The good was having done something great for my country, for the guys, for the people of New York. It was closure. An honor to be there.

I never expected people to be screaming « U.S.A.! » with Geraldo outside the White House.

The bad part was security. He was their prophet, basically. Now we killed him and I have to worry about this forever. Al Qaeda, especially these days, is 99 percent talk. But that 1 percent of the time they do shit, it’s bad. They’re capable of horrific things.

We listened to the Al Qaeda phone calls where one guy is saying, « We gotta find out who ratted on bin Laden. » The other guy says, « I heard he did it to himself. He was locked up in that house with three wives. » Funny terrorists.

At Bagram, the point man asked, « Hey, was he hit when you went into the room? I thought I shot him in the head and his cap flew off. » I said I didn’t know, but he was still walking and he had his hat on. The point man was like « Okay. No big deal. »

By then we had showered and were having some refreshments. We weren’t comparing dicks. I’ve been in a lot of battles with this guy. He’s a fucking amazing warrior, the most honorable, truthful dude I know. I trust him with my life.

The Shooter said he and the point man participated in a shooters-only debrief with military officials around a trash can in Jalalabad and then a long session at Bagram Airfield, but they left some details ambiguous. The point man said he took two shots and thought one may have hit bin Laden. He said his number two went into the room « and finished him off as he was circling the drain. » This was not exactly as it had gone down, but everyone seemed satisfied.

Early government versions of the shooting talked about bin Laden using his wife as protection and being shot by a SEAL inside the room. But subsequent accounts, from officials and others like Bissonnette, further muddied the story and obscured the facts.

What the two SEALs did discuss after the action was why there’d been a short gap before more assaulters joined them on the third floor. « Where was everybody else? » the point man asked. I told him we just ran thin.

Guys went left and right on the second floor and it was just us. Everything happened really fast. Everybody did their jobs. Any team member would have done exactly what I did.

At Jalalabad, as we got off the plane there was an air crew there, guys who fix helicopters. They hugged me and knew I’d killed him. I don’t know how the hell word spread that fast.

McRaven himself came over to me, very emotional. He grabbed me across the back of my neck like a proud father and gave me a hug. He knew what had happened, too.

Not long after, a senior government official had an unofficial phone call with the mentor. « Your boy was the one, » the mentor says he was told. The Shooter was alternately shocked and pleased to know that word got back to the States before I did. « Who killed bin Laden? » was the first question, and then the name just flies.

And it was the Shooter who, when an Obama administration official asked for details during the president’s private visit with the bin Laden team at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, said « We all did it. »

The SEAL standing next to the Shooter would say later, « Man, I was dying to tell him it was you. »

From the moment reporters started getting urgent texts hours before President Obama’s official announcement on May 1, 2011, the bin Laden mission exploded into public view. Suddenly, a brilliant spotlight was shining where shadows had ruled for decades.

TV trucks descended on the SEAL Team 6 community in Virginia Beach, showing their homes and hangouts.

« The big mission changed a lot of attitudes around the command, » the Shooter says. « There were suspicions about whether anyone was selling out. »

It had begun « when we were still in the Jalalabad hangar with our shit on. There was a lot of ‘Don’t let this go to your head, don’t talk to anyone,’ not even our own Red Team guys who hadn’t gone with us. »

The assaulters « were immediately put in a box, like a time-out, » says the Shooter’s close friend, who was not on the mission. « ‘Don’t open your mouth.’ I would have flown them to Tahoe for a week. »

But even with the SEALs’ strong history of institutional modesty, there was no unringing this bell.

The potential for public fame was too great, and suspicion was high inside SEAL Team 6.

The Shooter was among those reprimanded for going out to a bar to celebrate the night they got back home. And he was supposed to report for work the next morning, but instead took the day off to spend with his kids.

Twenty-four hours later came the offer of witness protection, driving the beer truck in Milwaukee. « That was the best idea on the table for security. »

« Maybe some courtesy eyes-on checks » of his home, he thought. « Send some Seabees over to put in a heavier, metal-reinforced front door. Install some sensors or something. But there was literally nothing. »

He considered whether to get a gun permit for life outside the perimeter.

The SEALs are proud of being ready for « anything and everything. » But when it came to his family’s safety? « I don’t have the resources. »

With gossip and finger-pointing continuing over the mission, the Shooter made a decision « to show I wasn’t a douchebag, that I’m still part of this team and believe in what we’re doing. »

He re-upped for another four-month deployment. It would be in the brutal cold of Afghanistan’s winter.

But he had already decided this would be his last deployment, his SEAL Team 6 sayonara.

« I wanted to see my children graduate and get married. » He hoped to be able to sleep through the night for the first time in years. « I was burned out, » he says. « And I realized that when I stopped getting an adrenaline rush from gunfights, it was time to go. »

May 1, 2012, the first anniversary of the bin Laden mission. The Shooter is getting ready to go play with his kids at a water park. He’s watching CNN.

« They were saying, ‘So now we’re taking viewer e-mails. Do you remember where you were when you found out Osama bin Laden was dead?’ And I was thinking: Of course I remember. I was in his bedroom looking down at his body. »

The standing ovation of a country in love with its secret warriors had devolved into a news quiz, even as new generations of SEALs are preparing for sacrifice in the Horn of Africa, Iran, perhaps Mexico.

The Shooter himself, an essential part of the team helping keep us safe since 9/11, is now on his own. He is enjoying his family, finally, and won’t be kissing his kids goodbye as though it were the last time and suiting up for the battlefield ever again.

But when he officially separates from the Navy three months later, where do his sixteen years of training and preparedness go on his résumé? Who in the outside world understands the executive skills and keen psychological fortitude he and his First Tier colleagues have absorbed into their DNA? Who is even allowed to know? And where can he go to get any of these questions answered?

There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it’s largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone’s coffee. There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of health care benefits—through VA physicians and hospitals—for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but it offers nothing for the shooter’s family.

« It’s criminal to me that these guys walk out the door naked, » says retired Marine major general Mike Myatt. « They’re the greatest of their generation; they know how to get things done. If I were a Fortune 500 company, I’d try to get my hands on any one of them. » The general is standing in the mezzanine of the Marines Memorial building he runs in San Francisco. He’s had to expand the memorial around the corner due to so many deaths over the past eleven years of war.

He is furious about the high unemployment rate among returning infantrymen, as well as homelessness, PTSD, and the other plagues of new veterans. General Myatt believes « the U.S. military is the best in the world at transitioning from civilian to military life and the worst in the world at transitioning back. » And that, he acknowledges, doesn’t even begin to consider the separate and distinct travesty visited on the Shooter and his comrades.

The Special Operations men are special beyond their operations. « These guys are self-actualizers, » says a retired rear admiral and former SEAL I spoke with. « Top of the pyramid. If they wanted to build companies, they could. They can do anything they put their minds to. That’s how smart they are. »

But what’s available to these superskilled retiring public servants? « Pretty much nothing, » says the admiral. « It’s ‘Thank you for your service, good luck.' »

One third-generation military man who has worked both inside and outside government, and who has fought for vets for decades, is sympathetic to the problem. But he notes that the Pentagon is dealing with two hundred thousand new veterans a year, compared with perhaps a few dozen SEALs. « Can and should the DOD spend the extra effort it would take to help the superelite guys get with exactly the kind of employers they should have? Investment bankers, say, value that competition, drive, and discipline, not to mention people with security clearances. They [Tier One vets] should be plugged in at executive levels. Any employers who think about it would want to hire these people. »

For officials, however, everyone signing out of war is a hero, and even for the masses of retirees, programs are sporadic and often ineffectual. Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have both made transitioning vets a personal cause, though these efforts are largely gestural and don’t reach nearly high enough for the skill sets of a member of SEAL Team 6.

The Virginia-based Navy SEAL Foundation has a variety of supportive programs for the families of SEALs, and the foundation spends $3.2 million a year maintaining them. But as yet they have no real method or programs for upper-level job placement of their most practiced constituency.

A businessman associated with the foundation says he understands that there is a need the foundation does not fill. « This is an ongoing thing where lots of people seem to want to help but no one has ever really done it effectively because our community is so small. No one’s ever cracked it. And there really needs to be an education effort well before they separate [from the service] to tell them, ‘The world you’re about to enter is very different than the one you’ve been operating in the last fifteen or twenty years.' » One former SEAL I spoke with is a Harvard MBA and now a very successful Wall Street trader whose career path is precisely the kind of example that should be evangelized to outgoing SEALs. His own life reflects that « SpecOps guys could be hugely value-added » to civilian companies, though he says business schools — degrees in general — might be an important step. « It would be great to get a panel of CEOs together who are ready to help these guys get hired. » Some big companies do have veteran-outreach specialists — former SEAL Harry Wingo fills that role at Google.

But these individual and scattered shots still do not provide what is needed: a comprehensive battle plan.

In San Francisco recently, I talked about the Special Ops issue with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and venture capitalist and Orbitz chairman Jeff Clarke. Both are very interested in offering a business luminary hand to help clandestine operators make their final jump. There is enthusiastic consensus among the business and military people I have canvassed that this kind of outside help is required, perhaps a new nonprofit financed and driven by the Costolos and Clarkes of the world.

Even before he retired, the Shooter’s new business plan dissolved when the SEAL Team 6 members who formed it decided to go in different directions, each casting for a civilian professional life that’s challenging and rewarding. The stark realities of post-SEAL life can make even the blood of brothers turn a little cold.

« I still have the same bills I had in the Navy, » the Shooter tells me when we talk in September 2012. But no money at all coming in, from anywhere.

« I just want to be able to pay all those bills, take care of my kids, and work from there, » he says. « I’d like to take the things I learned and help other people in any way I can. »

In the last few months, the Shooter has put together some work that involves a kind of discreet consulting for select audiences. But it’s a per-event deal, and he’s not sure how secure or long-term it will be. And he wants to be much more involved in making the post — SEAL Team 6 transition for others less uncertain.

The December suicide of one SEAL commander in Afghanistan and the combat death of another — a friend — while rescuing an American doctor from the Taliban underscore his urgent desire to make a difference on behalf of his friends.

He imagines traveling back to other parts of the world for a few days at a time to do dynamic surveys for businesses looking to put offices in countries that are not entirely safe, or to protect employees they already have in place.

But he is emphatic: He does not want to carry a gun. « I’ve fought all the fights. I don’t have a need for excitement anymore. Honestly. »

After all, when you’ve killed the world’s most wanted man, not everything should have to be a battle.

« They torture the shit out of people in this movie, don’t they? Everyone is chained to something. »

The Shooter is sitting next to me at a local movie theater in January, watching Zero Dark Thirty for the first time. He laughs at the beginning of the film about the bin Laden hunt when the screen reads, « Based on firsthand accounts of actual events. »

His uncle, who is also with us, along with the mentor and the Shooter’s wife, had asked him earlier whether he’d seen the film already.

« I saw the original, » the Shooter said. As the action moves toward the mission itself, I ask the Shooter whether his heart is beating faster. « No, » he says matter-of-factly. But when a SEAL Team 6 movie character yells, « Breacher! » for someone to blow one of the doors of the Abbottabad compound, the Shooter says loudly, « Are you fucking kidding me? Shut up! »

He explains afterward that no one would ever yell, « Breacher! » during an assault. Deadly silence is standard practice, a fist to the helmet sufficient signal for a SEAL with explosive packets to go to work.

During the shooting sequence, which passes, like the real one, in a flash, his fingers form a steeple under his chin and his focus is intense.

But his criticisms at dinner afterward are minor.

« The tattoo scene was horrible, » he says about a moment in the film when the ST6 assault group is lounging in Afghanistan waiting to go. « Those guys had little skulls or something instead of having some real ink that goes up to here. » He points to his shoulder blade.

« It was fun to watch. There was just little stuff. The helos turned the wrong way [toward the target], and they talked way, way too much [during the assault itself]. If someone was waiting for you, they could track your movements that way. »

The tactics on the screen « sucked, » he says, and « the mission in the damn movie took way too long » compared with the actual event. The stairs inside bin Laden’s building were configured inaccurately. A dog in the film was a German shepherd; the real one was a Belgian Malinois who’d previously been shot in the chest and survived. And there’s no talking on the choppers in real life.

There was also no whispered calling out of bin Laden as the SEALs stared up the third-floor stairwell toward his bedroom. « When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name. »

« They Hollywooded it up some. »

The portrayal of the chief CIA human bloodhound, « Maya, » based on a real woman whose iron-willed assurance about the compound and its residents moved a government to action, was « awesome » says the Shooter. « They made her a tough woman, which she is. »

The Shooter and the mentor joke with each other about the latest thermal/night-vision eyewear used in the movie, which didn’t exist when the older man was a SEAL.

« Dude, what the fuck? How come I never got my four-eye goggles? »

« We have those. » « Are you kidding me? »

« SEAL Team 6, baby. »

They laugh, at themselves as much as at each other.

The Shooter seems smoothed out, untroubled, as relaxed as I’ve seen him.

But the conversation turns dark when they discuss the portrayal of the other CIA operative, Jennifer Matthews, who was among seven people killed in 2009 when a suicide bomber was allowed into one of their black-ops stations in Afghanistan.

They both knew at least one of the paramilitary contractors who perished with her.

The supper table is suddenly flooded with the surge of strong emotions. Anguish, really, though they both hide it well. This is not a movie. It’s real life, where death is final and threats last forever.

The blood is your own, not fake splatter and explosive squibs.

Movies, books, lore — we all helped make these men brilliant assassins in the name of liberty, lifted them up on our shoulders as unique and exquisitely trained heroes, then left them alone in the shadows of their past.

Uncertainty will never be far away for the Shooter. His government may have shut the door on him, but he is required to live inside the consequences of his former career.

One line from the film kept resonating in my head.

An actor playing a CIA station chief warns Maya about jihadi vengeance.

« Once you’re on their list, » he says, « you never get off. »

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the extent of the five-year health care benefits offered to cover veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers comprehensive health care to eligible veterans during that period, though not to their families. In light of this change, we have also revised an earlier passage in the story referring to the shooter’s post-service benefits. Also, the original version of this story did not include a few sentences that ran in the issue printed last week. They have now been restored.

http://www.esquire.com/features/man-who-shot-osama-bin-laden-0313


Littérature: Attention, la littérature peut être dangereuse pour votre santé (The Road finally taken: how Frost’s tricky poem tricked even his best friend)

17 février, 2013

http://davesandel.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/13.jpg
A man will not easily write better than he speaks when some matter has touched him deeply. Edward Thomas
No matter which road you take, you’ll always sigh, and wish you’d taken another. Robert Frost
I’ll bet not half a dozen people can tell you who was hit and where he was hit in my Road Not Taken. Robert Frost
I doubt if you can get anybody to see the fun of the thing without showing them and advising them which kind of laugh they are to turn on. Edward Thomas
The strongly sententious yet ironic last stanza in effect predicts the happy American construction which « The Road not taken » has been traditionally understood to endorse – predicts, in other words what the poem will be sentimentally made into, but from a place in the poem that its Atlantic Monthly reading, as it were, will never touch. Frank Letricchia
Noble, charismatic, wise: in the years since its composition, « The Road Not Taken » has been understood by some as an emblem of individual choice and self-reliance, a moral tale in which the traveller takes responsibility for – and so effects – his own destiny. But it was never intended to be read in this way by Frost, who was well aware of the playful ironies contained within it, and would warn audiences: « You have to be careful of that one; it’s a tricky poem – very tricky. » Frost knew that reading the poem as a straight morality tale ought to pose a number of difficulties. For one: how can we evaluate the outcome of the road not taken? For another: had the poet chosen the road more travelled by then that, logically, could also have made all the difference. And in case the subtlety was missed, Frost set traps in the poem intended to explode a more earnest reading. The two paths, he wrote, had been worn « really about the same », and « equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black », showing the reader that neither road was more or less travelled, and that choices may in some sense be equal. But the poem carried a more personal message. Many were the walks when Thomas would guide Frost on the promise of rare wild flowers or birds’ eggs, only to end in self-reproach when the path he chose revealed no such wonders. Amused at Thomas’s inability to satisfy himself, Frost chided him, « No matter which road you take, you’ll always sigh, and wish you’d taken another. » To Thomas, it was not the least bit funny. It pricked at his confidence, at his sense of his own fraudulence, reminding him he was neither a true writer nor a true naturalist, cowardly in his lack of direction. And now the one man who understood his indecisiveness the most astutely – in particular, towards the war – appeared to be mocking him for it. (…) None of this was Thomas. « It isn’t in me, » he pleaded. Frost insisted that Thomas was overreacting, and told his friend that he had failed to see that « the sigh was a mock sigh, hypocritical for the fun of the thing ». But Thomas saw no such fun, and said so bluntly, adding that he doubted anyone would see the fun of the thing without Frost to guide them personally. Frost, in fact, had already discovered as much on reading the poem before a college audience, where it was « taken pretty seriously », he admitted, despite « doing my best to make it obvious by my manner that I was fooling . . . Mea culpa. » « The Road Not Taken » did not send Thomas to war, but it was the last and pivotal moment in a sequence of events that had brought him to an irreversible decision. Matthew Hollis
You can see why this has become an anthologists’ favourite, beloved by earnest Eng. Lit. students and life coaches. What an inspiring message about the importance of individual choice, of having the courage to split off from the herd and follow your heart along the lonely road of personal integrity. It may require sacrifice, forsaking the pleasures that await on the more trodden path, but never fear: the spiritual rewards will make all the difference. Indeed, ‘the road less travelled’ has become a kind of shorthand for a life of enlightenment and spiritual questing. It’s the title of one of the most successful self-help books ever published. Just one problem: that’s not what Frost meant at all. Although, somehow, most readers manage not to notice, he quietly stresses that both paths in the poem are ‘worn about the same’ and ‘equally’ covered in fresh, untrodden leaves. In truth, one is no less travelled than the other – that’s just a fanciful assertion with no evidence to back it up. It is, in Frost’s own words, ‘a tricky poem – very tricky’. The real message, bleak and cynical, seems to be that our choices in life, however much we dither over them, are often essentially acts of caprice. As for their outcome, who knows? Take the other road, Frost seems to be hinting, and that would make all the difference, too. Either way, it’s not worth sighing over. Few poems can have been more wildly misread. But there was one man in particular who failed to ‘get’ it, with personally devastating consequences. And that was the man for whom it was written: Edward Thomas. Paul Carter

Titre perversement ambivalent, revendications de non-conformité contredites par la réalité,  distance ironique entre la fausse simplicité des mots et la creuse grandiloquence de la conclusion …

Attention: lire de la littérature peut être risqué pour votre santé!

Suite à notre dernier billet concernant les effets, sur nos vies amoureuses, de l’hyperchoix des sites de rencontres

Retour sur l’un des poèmes américains les plus populaires et les plus mal compris …

A savoir le célèbre Road not taken du poète aux quatre prix Pulitzer choisi par le président Kennedy pour son inaunot takeguration, Robert Frost

Où l’on découvre derrière le joyeux hymne à l’individualisme et à la non-conformité qu’y ont vu tant de générations d’élèves et d’étudiants américains …

Non seulement une satire nettement plus sombre de la propensité humaine à rationaliser a posteriori nos caprices en choix prétendument délibérés  …

Mais, à l’origine, une plaisanterie qui se révélera des plus cruelles et même fatale pour l’un des amis anglais de l’auteur, le critique et poète Edward Thomas qui avait tant contribué au succès de l’Américain en Angleterre …

Pour qui non pas tant la moquerie sur sa notoire indécision mais  la remise en cause de sa virilité par l’ami qu’il avait décidé de suivre aux Etats-Unis finira par le conduire au choix fatidique des tranchées de la Somme …

Genius who died because he couldn’t take a joke…

NOW ALL ROADS LEAD TO FRANCE: THE LAST YEARS OF EDWARD THOMAS BY MATTHEW HOLLIS (Faber & Faber £20)

Paul Carter

The Daily Mail

18 August 2011

This is the story of how one of England’s finest poets died at the peak of his powers because he couldn’t take a joke – a joke that has since touched the lives of millions who completely misinterpret it and don’t even realise it was meant to be funny.

The joke in question is Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I —

I took the road less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

You can see why this has become an anthologists’ favourite, beloved by earnest Eng. Lit. students and life coaches. What an inspiring message about the importance of individual choice, of having the courage to split off from the herd and follow your heart along the lonely road of personal integrity.

It may require sacrifice, forsaking the pleasures that await on the more trodden path, but never fear: the spiritual rewards will make all the difference.

Indeed, ‘the road less travelled’ has become a kind of shorthand for a life of enlightenment and spiritual questing. It’s the title of one of the most successful self-help books ever published.

Just one problem: that’s not what Frost meant at all. Although, somehow, most readers manage not to notice, he quietly stresses that both paths in the poem are ‘worn about the same’ and ‘equally’ covered in fresh, untrodden leaves. In truth, one is no less travelled than the other – that’s just a fanciful assertion with no evidence to back it up.

It is, in Frost’s own words, ‘a tricky poem – very tricky’. The real message, bleak and cynical, seems to be that our choices in life, however much we dither over them, are often essentially acts of caprice.

As for their outcome, who knows? Take the other road, Frost seems to be hinting, and that would make all the difference, too. Either way, it’s not worth sighing over.

Few poems can have been more wildly misread. But there was one man in particular who failed to ‘get’ it, with personally devastating consequences. And that was the man for whom it was written: Edward Thomas.

Thomas was working as a hack writer and literary critic when he met Frost, a failed poultry farmer who had moved from America to Britain in 1912, supposedly on the toss of a coin, in the hope of making his fortune as a poet.

Unfulfilled, seething with self-hatred, convinced he was a failure in both his career and his marriage, Thomas was prey to fits of black depression and flirted with suicide, charging off into the woods with a revolver or carrying around a bottle of poison that he called ‘the saviour in my pocket’.

But though his raging discontent made him sour, self-pitying and monstrously cruel to his wife – ‘Your sympathy and your love are both hateful to me. Hate me, but for God’s sake don’t stand there, pale and suffering’ – he was, when in full command of himself, a gentle and sweet-hearted man.

As a critic, he was Frost’s first champion. The pair became friends, and it was Frost, seeing hints of genius beneath the tired, strained prose of Thomas’s books on nature and the English countryside, who persuaded him to attempt poetry of his own.

A fountain of creativity was unleashed. Poem after poem poured from the pen of a man who had once flatly declared: ‘I couldn’t write a poem to save my life.’

Rapturous joy, black despair – Thomas took the turmoil of his inner life and turned it into some of the most subtle and compelling poetry of the 20th century. Miraculously, his depression began to lift.

And then Frost made his little joke.

As Matthew Hollis describes in his wonderful book, the two men used to discuss their ideas about poetry on long country walks. It tickled Frost that Thomas would often lead the way in search of some rare wild flowers or birds’ eggs, ‘only for the walk to conclude in self-reproach when the path Thomas chose bore no such wonders’.

‘No matter which road you take, you’ll always sigh, and wish you’d taken another,’ Frost teased his friend. And he turned the tease into a poem.

Thomas was not amused. It was as if the one man who understood his savagely self-critical, self-doubting nature was mocking him for it, taunting him as a timid ditherer.

Ever since being criticised by his father for – as we would now call it – ‘choking’ during a school athletics race and throwing away certain victory, Thomas had been haunted by the fear that he was a coward.

During one of his walks with Frost, the pair had been confronted by a gamekeeper with a gun; Frost angrily defied him, but Thomas weedily retreated, and was stricken with guilt ever after. Now, he thought, his dearest friend was attacking his lack of moral fibre in print.

The ditherer’s response could hardly have been more decisive.

In the preceding weeks, he had been making plans to emigrate to America with Frost. They would write poetry together and support their families by working the land. Not now. Thomas would take another road.

On July 19, 1915, at the age of 37, and hiding the diabetes that would have led to his rejection, he enlisted as a private in the British Army. He wrote a series of haunting, deathstruck poems during his training and then went to fight in France.

Edward Thomas was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 1917. He had left his dugout for a moment to fill his pipe; a shell passed so close that the rush of air stopped his heart and he fell to the ground, not a mark on his body.

Two paths had diverged, he had made his choice, and England had lost a great soul and a great poet, who crammed his entire output of more than 140 poems into the last two-and-a-half years of his life.

Matthew Hollis tells this tale with a sigh — but also with dry wit, deep compassion and a poet’s eye for evocative detail.

Voir aussi:

Edward Thomas, Robert Frost and the road to war

When Thomas and Frost met in London in 1913, neither had yet made his name as a poet. They became close, and each was vital to the other’s success. But then Frost wrote ‘The Road Not Taken’, which was to drive Thomas off to war

Matthew Hollis

The Guardian

Friday 29 July 2011

Edward Thomas and Robert Frost were sitting on an orchard stile near Little Iddens, Frost’s cottage in Gloucestershire, in 1914, when word arrived that Britain had declared war on Germany. The two men wondered idly whether they might be able to hear the guns from their corner of the county. They had no idea of the way in which this war would come between them. In six months, Frost would flee England for the safety of New Hampshire; he would take Thomas’s son with him in the expectation that the rest of the Thomas family would follow.

Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas

by Matthew Hollis

So close was the friendship that had developed between them that Thomas and Frost planned to live side by side in America, writing, teaching, farming. But Thomas was a man plagued by indecision, and could not readily choose between a life with Frost and the pull of the fighting in France. War seemed such an unlikely outcome for him. He was an anti-nationalist, who despised the jingoism and racism that the press was stoking; he refused to hate Germans or grow « hot » with patriotic love for Englishmen, and once said that his real countrymen were the birds. But this friendship – the most important of either man’s life – would falter at a key moment, and Thomas would go to war.

Thomas was 36 that summer of 1914, Frost was 40; neither man had yet made his name as a poet. Thomas had published two dozen prose books and written almost 2,000 reviews, but he had still to write his first poem. He worked exhaustedly, hurriedly, « burning my candle at 3 ends », he told Frost, to meet the deadlines of London’s literary editors; he felt convinced that he amounted to little more than a hack. He was crippled by a depression that had afflicted him since university. His moods had become so desperate that on the day he was introduced to Frost, he carried in his pocket a purchase that he ominously referred to as his « Saviour »: probably poison, possibly a pistol, but certainly something with which he intended to harm himself.

At such periods of despair Thomas would lash out at his family, humiliating his wife, Helen, and provoking his three children to tears. He despised himself for the pain he inflicted on them and would leave home, sometimes for months on end, to spare them further agony. « Our life together never was, as it were, on the level –  » Helen reflected candidly after his death, « it was either great heights or great depths. » But Edward’s heights were not Helen’s, and his depths were altogether deeper. He sought professional help at a time when little was available, and was fortunate to come under the supervision of a pioneering young doctor, a future pupil of Carl Jung’s, who attempted to treat him using a talking cure. The clinical sessions had been progressing for a year when Thomas abruptly turned his back on them. Yet he continued to look to others to help wrench him from his despondency, believing that a rescuer would one day emerge. « I feel sure that my salvation depends on a person, » he once prophesised, « and that person cannot be Helen because she has come to resemble me too much. » Such a figure would indeed arrive to help him in his distress – Robert Frost.

Frost had moved his family to England in 1912 in a bid to relaunch a stalled literary career. Then in his late 30s and a father of four, he had managed to publish only a handful of poems in America’s literary magazines. He had not been sure whether to relocate his family to London or to Vancouver, so while his wife did the ironing, he had taken a nickel from his pocket and flipped it. It was heads, which meant London, and two weeks later the entire family was steaming across the Atlantic.

He found a publisher in London for his poems soon enough (partly subsidised by himself), though few critics gave his work a second look. But Edward Thomas did. Where other reviewers mistook Frost’s verse as simplistic, Thomas was moved to announce his 1914 volume North of Boston as « one of the most revolutionary books of modern times ». Thomas was a fearless and influential critic, described by the Times as « the man with the keys to the Paradise of English Poetry ». He had been quick to identify the brilliance of a young American in London called Ezra Pound, and instrumental in shaping the early reception of Walter de la Mare, WH Davies and many others besides; and he was quite undaunted in taking to task the literary giants of the day if they fell below the mark, be they Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling or WB Yeats. When Thomas praised Frost, therefore, people began to take note.

North of Boston was a revolutionary work all right. In a mere 18 poems, it demonstrated the qualities that Frost and Thomas had – quite independently – come to believe were essential to the making of good verse. For both men, the engine of poetry was not rhyme or even form but rhythm, and the organ by which it communicated was the listening ear as opposed to the reading eye. For Thomas and Frost that entailed a fidelity to the phrase rather than to the metrical foot, to the rhythms of speech rather than those of poetic conventions, to what Frost liked to call « cadence ». If you have ever listened to voices through a closed door, Frost reasoned, you will have noticed how it can be possible to understand the general meaning of a conversation even when the specific words are muffled. This is because the tones and sentences with which we speak are coded with sonic meaning, a « sound of sense ». It is through this sense, unlocked by the rhythms of the speaking voice, that poetry communicates most profoundly: « A man will not easily write better than he speaks when some matter has touched him deeply, » Thomas wrote.

Neither Frost nor Thomas claimed to be the first to think about poetry this way, but their views certainly set them apart from their contemporaries, who were in furious competition in the charged atmosphere of the years before the war. Strikers, unionists, suffragettes, Irish republicans and the unemployed were just some of the rebellious groups that England strove to tame in 1914, and might very well have failed to suppress had war not broken out. The young poets emerging at the same time were, in their own way, also in revolt against the decrepitude of Victorian Britain. The centre of their activities was the newly opened Poetry Bookshop in Bloomsbury, from where two rival anthologies were produced: the manicured but popular Georgian Poetry, compiled by the secretary to the first lord of the Admiralty, Edward Marsh, and the radically experimental Des Imagistes, edited by Ezra Pound. It took no time at all for these parties to quarrel: so exasperating and offensive did Pound find Georgian verse that he challenged one of its protagonists to a duel.

Thomas and Frost ploughed their own furrow. Whenever Thomas visited Frost in 1914, they would walk out together on the fields of Gloucestershire; wherever they walked, they moved in an instinctive sympathy. Frost called these their « talks–walking »: and in them, their conversations ranged over marriage and friendship, wildlife, poetry and the war. Sometimes there was no talk and a silence gathered about them; but often at a gate or stile it started up again or was prompted by the meeting of a stranger in the lanes – a word or two and they were off again. They went without a map, setting their course by the sun or by the distant arc of May Hill crowning the view to the south; at dusk, the towering elms and Lombardy poplars or the light of a part-glimpsed cottage saw them home.

« He gave me standing as a poet, » Frost said of Thomas, « he more than anyone else. » But Frost would more than repay the favour that summer, recognising an innate poetry within Thomas’s prose writings, and imploring his friend to look back at his topographic books and « write them in verse form in exactly the same cadence ». Thomas would do just that, and with his friend’s encouragement, started down a path that would take him away from the « hack » work from which he earned his living. Jack Haines was a poet and solicitor living nearby in 1914 and was one of the few people who witnessed the transition at first hand. « It was towards the end of this same year that Thomas first began to write poetry himself, » Haines recorded, « and he did so certainly on the indirect, and I believe on the direct, suggestion of Frost, who thought that verse might prove that perfect mode of self-expression which Thomas had perhaps never previously found. »

The poems came quickly, « in a hurry and a whirl »: 75 in the first six months alone. He revised very little, explaining that the poetry neither asked for nor received much correction on paper. Often he went back to his prose to find his poem. Sometimes his source was a notebook that he kept on his walks, at other times his published books; and though the gap between his initial notes and a verse draft could be many months, once he began on the poem itself he usually completed it in a single day.

But poetry was not the only thing waking in Thomas in those summer months as the war began. Late in August, walking with Frost through the afternoon into the night, Thomas jotted in his notebook:

a sky of dark rough horizontal masses in N.W. with a 1/3 moon bright and almost orange low down clear of cloud and I thought of men east-ward seeing it at the same moment. It seems foolish to have loved England up to now without knowing it could perhaps be ravaged and I could and perhaps would do nothing to prevent it.

The war was three weeks old, and for the first time Thomas had imagined his countrymen fighting abroad, under the same moon as he. He was indifferent to the politics of the conflict, but he had begun to weigh up the worth of the land beneath his feet and the way of life that it supported. What would he do, if called on, to protect it, he asked himself. Would he do anything at all?

For a year, Thomas would question himself this way. It would take two incidents with Frost to help him to find his answer.

In late November 1914, Thomas and Frost were strolling in the woods behind Frost’s cottage when they were intercepted by the local gamekeeper, who challenged their presence and told the men bluntly to clear out. As a resident, Frost believed he was entitled to roam wherever he wished, and he told the keeper as much. The keeper was unimpressed and some sharp words were exchanged, and when the poets emerged on to the road they were challenged once more. Tempers flared and the keeper called Frost « a damned cottager » before raising his shotgun at the two men. Incensed, Frost was on the verge of striking the man, but hesitated when he saw Thomas back off. Heated words continued to be had, with the adversaries goading each other before then finally parting, the poets talking heatedly of the incident as they walked.

Thomas said that the keeper’s aggression was unacceptable and that something should be done about it. Frost’s ire peaked as he listened to Thomas: something would indeed be done and done right now, and if Thomas wanted to follow him he could see it being done. The men turned back, Frost angrily, Thomas hesitantly, but the gamekeeper was no longer on the road. His temper wild, Frost insisted on tracking the man down, which they did, to a small cottage at the edge of a coppice. Frost beat on the door, and left the startled keeper in no doubt as to what would befall him were he ever to threaten him again or bar access to the preserve. Frost repeated his warning for good measure, turned on his heels and prepared to leave. What happened next would be a defining moment in Frost and Thomas’s friendship, and would plague Thomas to his dying days.

The keeper, recovering his wits, reached above the door for his shotgun and came outside, this time heading straight for Thomas who, until then, had not been his primary target. The gun was raised again; instinctively Thomas backed off once more, and the gamekeeper forced the men off his property and back on to the path, where they retreated under the keeper’s watchful aim.

Frost contented himself with the thought that he had given a good account of himself; but not Thomas, who wished that his mettle had not been tested in the presence of his friend. He felt sure that he had shown himself to be cowardly and suspected Frost of thinking the same. Not once but twice had he failed to hold his ground, while his friend had no difficulty standing his. His courage had been found wanting, at a time when friends such as Rupert Brooke had found it in themselves to face genuine danger overseas.

The encounter would leave Thomas haunted, to relive the moment again and again. In his verse and in his letters to Frost – in the week when he left for France, even in the week of his death – he recalled the feeling of fear and cowardice he had experienced in that stand-off with the gamekeeper. He felt mocked by events and possibly even by the most important friend he had ever made, and he vowed that he would never again let himself be faced down. When the moment came he would hold his nerve and face the gunmen. « That’s why he went to war, » said Frost later.

But it would take one further episode in Thomas’s friendship with Frost to push him to war; and it would turn on a work of Frost’s that has become America’s best-loved poem.

In the early summer of 1915, six months after the row with the gamekeeper, Thomas had still to take his fateful decision to enlist. Zeppelins had brought the war emphatically to London, but Thomas’s eyes were on New Hampshire, to where Frost had returned earlier that year. Thomas prepared his mother for the news that he might emigrate, and told Frost he seemed certain to join him: « I am thinking about America as my only chance (apart from Paradise). » But Thomas’s prevarication got the better of him once more, and though conscription had yet to be introduced, he told Frost of the equal pull of the war in France. « Frankly I do not want to go, » he said of the fighting, « but hardly a day passes without my thinking I should. With no call, the problem is endless. »

But the problem was not endless as Thomas thought, for a poem of Frost’s had arrived by post that would dramatically force Thomas’s hand: a poem called « Two Roads », soon to be rechristened « The Road Not Taken ». It finished:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Noble, charismatic, wise: in the years since its composition, « The Road Not Taken » has been understood by some as an emblem of individual choice and self-reliance, a moral tale in which the traveller takes responsibility for – and so effects – his own destiny. But it was never intended to be read in this way by Frost, who was well aware of the playful ironies contained within it, and would warn audiences: « You have to be careful of that one; it’s a tricky poem – very tricky. »

Frost knew that reading the poem as a straight morality tale ought to pose a number of difficulties. For one: how can we evaluate the outcome of the road not taken? For another: had the poet chosen the road more travelled by then that, logically, could also have made all the difference. And in case the subtlety was missed, Frost set traps in the poem intended to explode a more earnest reading. The two paths, he wrote, had been worn « really about the same », and « equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black », showing the reader that neither road was more or less travelled, and that choices may in some sense be equal.

But the poem carried a more personal message. Many were the walks when Thomas would guide Frost on the promise of rare wild flowers or birds’ eggs, only to end in self-reproach when the path he chose revealed no such wonders. Amused at Thomas’s inability to satisfy himself, Frost chided him, « No matter which road you take, you’ll always sigh, and wish you’d taken another. »

To Thomas, it was not the least bit funny. It pricked at his confidence, at his sense of his own fraudulence, reminding him he was neither a true writer nor a true naturalist, cowardly in his lack of direction. And now the one man who understood his indecisiveness the most astutely – in particular, towards the war – appeared to be mocking him for it.

Thomas responded angrily. He did not subscribe to models of self-determination, or the belief that the spirit could triumph over adversity; some things seemed to him ingrained, inevitable. How free-spirited his friend seemed in comparison. This American who sailed for England on a long-shot, knowing no one and without a place to go, rode his literary fortunes and won his prize, then set sail again to make himself a new home. None of this was Thomas. « It isn’t in me, » he pleaded.

Frost insisted that Thomas was overreacting, and told his friend that he had failed to see that « the sigh was a mock sigh, hypocritical for the fun of the thing ». But Thomas saw no such fun, and said so bluntly, adding that he doubted anyone would see the fun of the thing without Frost to guide them personally. Frost, in fact, had already discovered as much on reading the poem before a college audience, where it was « taken pretty seriously », he admitted, despite « doing my best to make it obvious by my manner that I was fooling . . . Mea culpa. »

« The Road Not Taken » did not send Thomas to war, but it was the last and pivotal moment in a sequence of events that had brought him to an irreversible decision. He broke the news to Frost. « Last week I had screwed myself up to the point of believing I should come out to America & lecture if anyone wanted me to. But I have altered my mind. I am going to enlist on Wednesday if the doctor will pass me. »

In walking with Frost, he had written of the urgent need to protect – and if necessary, to fight for – the life and the landscape around him. « Something, I felt, had to be done before I could look again composedly at English landscape, » he explained, though he had struggled for some time to see what it was that might be done. Finally, he understood. Thomas was passed fit by the doctor, and the same week, in July 1915, he sat down to lunch with a friend and informed her that he had enlisted in the Artists Rifles, and that he was glad; he did not know why, but he was glad.

« I had known that the struggle going on in his spirit would end like this, » his wife wrote.

Thomas brought a unique eye to the English landscape at a moment when it was facing irreversible change. His work seems distinctly modern in its recognition of the interdependence of human beings and the natural world, more closely attuned to our own ecological age than that of the first world war.

Though few of his poems were published in his lifetime, his admirers have been many: WH Auden, Cecil Day-Lewis, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, Andrew Motion and Michael Longley among them. But perhaps no poet ever valued him more highly than Robert Frost: « We were greater friends than almost any two ever were practising the same art, » he remarked. A war, a gamekeeper and a road not taken came between them, but by then they had altered one another’s lives irrevocably. Thomas pulled his friend’s work from obscurity into a clearing, from which the American would go on to sell a million poetry books in his lifetime. Frost, in turn, released the poet within Thomas, and would even find a publisher for his verse in the United States. That book would carry a dedication that Thomas had scribbled on the eve of sailing for France: « To Robert Frost ». Frost responded in kind, writing: « Edward Thomas was the only brother I ever had. »

At twilight when walking, or at the parting of ways with a friend, Thomas could feel great sadness that his journey must come to an end:

Things will happen which will trample and pierce, but I shall go on, something that is here and there like the wind, something unconquerable, something not to be separated from the dark earth and the light sky, a strong citizen of infinity and eternity.

He was killed on the first day of the battle of Arras, Easter 1917; he had survived little more than two months in France. Yet his personal war was never with a military opponent: it had been with his ravaging depression and with his struggle to find a literary expression through poetry that was worthy of his talents. And on the latter, at least, he won his battle.

Voir également:

On « The Road Not Taken »

William H. Pritchard

On December 16, 1916, he received a warm letter from Meiklejohn, looking forward to his presence at Amherst and saying that that morning in chapel he had read aloud « The Road Not Taken, » « and then told the boys about your coming. They applauded vigorously and were evidently much delighted by the prospect. »

Alexander Meiklejohn was an exceptionally high-minded educator whose principles and whose moral tone toward things may be illustrated most briefly and clearly by some statements from his essay « What the College Is. » This, his inaugural address as president of Amherst, was printed for a time as an introduction to the college catalogue. What the college was, or should be -what Meiklejohn hoped to make Amherst into – was a place to be thought of as « liberal, » that is, « essentially intellectual »: « The college is primarily not a place of the body, nor of the feelings, nor even of the will; it is, first of all, a place of the mind. » Introducing « the boys » to the intellectual life led for its own sake, would save them from pettiness and dullness, would save them from being one of what Meiklejohn referred to as « the others »:

There are those among us who will find so much satisfaction in the countless trivial and vulgar amusements of a crude people that they have no time for the joys of the mind. There are those who are so closely shut up within a little round of petty pleasures they that have never dreamed of the fun of reading and conversing and investigating and reflecting.

A liberal education would rescue boys from stupidity, its purpose being to draw from that « reality-loving American boy » something like « an intellectual enthusiasm. » But this result could not be achieved, Meiklejohn added, without a thorough reversal of the curriculum: « I should like to see every freshman at once plunged into the problems of philosophy, » he said with enthusiasm.

Now, five years after his address, he was bringing to Amherst someone outside the usual academic orbit, a poet who lacked even a college degree. But despite – or perhaps because of – this lack, the poet had escaped triviality, was an original mind who knew about living by ideas. For he had written among other poems « The Road Not Taken, » given pride of place in the just-published Mountain Interval as not only its first poem but also printed in italics, as though to make it also a preface to and motto for the poems which followed. It was perfect for Meiklejohn’s purposes because it was no idle reverie, no escape through lovely language into a soothing dream world, but a poem rather which announced itself to be « about » important issues in life: about the nature of choice, of decision, of how to go in one direction rather than another and how to feel about the direction you took and didn’t take. For President Meiklejohn and for the assembled students at compulsory chapel, it might have been heard as a stirring instance of what the « liberal college » was all about, since it showed how, instead of acceding to the petty pleasures, the « countless trivial and vulgar amusements » offered by the world or the money-god or the values of the marketplace, an individual could go his own way, live his own life, read his own books, take the less traveled road:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The poem ended, the boys « applauded vigorously, » and surely Meiklejohn congratulated himself just a bit on making the right choice, taking the less traveled road and inviting a poet to join the Amherst College faculty.

What the president could hardly have imagined, committed as he was in high seriousness to making the life of the college truly an intellectual one, was the unruliness of Frost’s spirit and its unwillingness to be confined within the formulas – for Meiklejohn, they were the truths – of the « liberal college. » On the first day of the new year, 1917, just preparatory to moving his family down from the Franconia farm into a house in Amherst, Frost wrote Untermeyer about where the fun lay in what he, Frost, thought of as « intellectual activity »:

You get more credit for thinking if you restate formulae or cite cases that fall in easily under formulae, but all the fun is outside saying things that suggest formulae that won’t formulate – that almost but don’t quite formulate. I should like to be so subtle at this game as to seem to the casual person altogether obvious. The casual person would assume I meant nothing or else I came near enough meaning something he was familiar with to mean it for all practical purposes. Well, well, well.

The « fun » is « outside, » and lies in doing something like teasing, suggesting formulae that don’t formulate, or not quite. The fun is not in being « essentially intellectual » or in manifesting « intellectual enthusiasm » in Meiklejohn’s sense of the phrase, but in being « subtle, » and not just subtle but so much so as to fool « the casual person » into thinking that what you said was obvious. If we juxtapose these remarks with his earlier determination to reach out as a poet to all sorts and kinds of people, and if we think of « The Road Not Taken » as a prime example of a poem which succeeded in reaching out and taking hold, then something interesting emerges about the kind of relation to other people, to readers – or to students and college presidents – Frost was willing to live with, indeed to cultivate.

For the large moral meaning which « The Road Not Taken » seems to endorse – go, as I did, your own way, take the road less traveled by, and it will make « all the difference »-does not maintain itself when the poem is looked at more carefully. Then one notices how insistent is the speaker on admitting, at the time of his choice, that the two roads were in appearance « really about the same, » that they « equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black, » and that choosing one rather than the other was a matter of impulse, impossible to speak about any more clearly than to say that the road taken had « perhaps the better claim. » But in the final stanza, as the tense changes to future, we hear a different story, one that will be told « with a sigh » and « ages and ages hence. » At that imagined time and unspecified place, the voice will have nobly simplified and exalted the whole impulsive matter into a deliberate one of taking the « less traveled » road:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Is it not the high tone of poignant annunciation that really makes all the difference? An earlier version of the poem had no dash after « I »; presumably Frost added it to make the whole thing more expressive and heartfelt. And it was this heartfelt quality which touched Meiklejohn and the students.

Yet Frost had written Untermeyer two years previously that « I’ll bet not half a dozen people can tell you who was hit and where he was hit in my Road Not Taken, » and he characterized himself in that poem particularly as « fooling my way along. » He also said that it was really about his friend Edward Thomas, who when they walked together always castigated himself for not having taken another path than the one they took. When Frost sent « The Road Not Taken » to Thomas he was disappointed that Thomas failed to understand it as a poem about himself, but Thomas in return insisted to Frost that « I doubt if you can get anybody to see the fun of the thing without showing them and advising them which kind of laugh they are to turn on. » And though this sort of advice went exactly contrary to Frost’s notion of how poetry should work, he did on occasion warn his audiences and other readers that it was a tricky poem. Yet it became a popular poem for very different reasons than what Thomas referred to as « the fun of the thing. » It was taken to be an inspiring poem rather, a courageous credo stated by the farmer-poet of New Hampshire. In fact, it is an especially notable instance in Frost’s work of a poem which sounds noble and is really mischievous. One of his notebooks contains the following four-line thought:

Nothing ever so sincere
That unless it’s out of sheer
Mischief and a little queer
It wont prove a bore to hear.

The mischievous aspect of « The Road Not Taken » is what makes it something un-boring, for there is little in its language or form which signals an interesting poem. But that mischief also makes it something other than a « sincere » poem, in the way so many readers have taken Frost to be sincere. Its fun is outside the formulae it seems almost but not quite to formulate.

From Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered. Copyright © 1984 by William Pritchard.

Jay Parini

A close look at the poem reveals that Frost’s walker encounters two nearlv identical paths: so he insists, repeatedly. The walker looks down one, first, then the other, « as just as fair. » Indeed, « the passing there / Had worn them reallv about the same. » As if the reader hasn’t gotten the message, Frost says for a third time. « And both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black. » What, then, can we make of the final stanza? My guess is that Frost, the wily ironist, is saying something like this: « When I am old, like all old men, I shall make a myth of my life. I shall pretend, as we all do, that I took the less traveled road. But I shall be lying. » Frost signals the mockingly self-inflated tone of the last stanza by repeating the word « I, » which rhymes – several times – with the inflated word « sigh. » Frost wants the reader to know that what he will be saying, that he took the road less traveled, is a fraudulent position, hence the sigh.

From « Frost » in Columbia Literary History of the United States. Ed. Emory Elliott. Copyright © 1988 by the Columbia University Press.

George Montiero

« THE ROAD NOT TAKEN » can be read against a literary and pictorial tradition that might be called « The Choice of the Two Paths,  » reaching not only back to the Gospels and beyond them to the Greeks but to ancient English verse as well. In Reson and Sensuallyte, for example, John Lydgate explains how he dreamt that Dame Nature had offered him the choice between the Road of Reason and the Road of Sensuality. In art the same choice was often represented by the letter « Y » with the trunk of the letter representing the careless years of childhood and the two paths branching off at the age when the child is expected to exercise discretion. In one design the « Two Paths » are shown in great detail. « On one side a thin line of pious folk ascend a hill past several churches and chapels, and so skyward to the Heavenly City where an angel stands proffering a crown. On the other side a crowd of men and women are engaged in feasting, music, love-making, and other carnal pleasures while close behind them yawns the flaming mouth of hell in which sinners are writhing. But hope is held out for the worldly for some avoid hell and having passed through a dark forest come to the rude huts of Humility and Repentance. » Embedded in this quotation is a direct reference to the opening of Dante’s Inferno:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was the forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more.

From the beginning, when it appeared as the first poem in Mountain Interval (1916), many readers have overstated the importance of « The Road Not Taken » to Frost’s work. Alexander Meiklejohn, president of Amherst College, did so when, announcing the appointment of the poet to the school’s faculty he recited it to a college assembly.

« The Choice of Two Paths » is suggested in Frost’s decision to make his two roads not very much different from one another, for passing over one of them had the effect of wearing them « really about the same. » This is a far cry from, say, the description of the « two waies  » offered in the seventeenth century by Henry Crosse:

Two waies are proposed and laide open to all, the one inviting to vertue, the other alluring to vice; the first is combersome, intricate, untraded, overgrowne, and many obstacles to dismay the passenger; the other plaine, even beaten, overshadowed with boughes, tapistried with flowers, and many objects to feed the eye; now a man that lookes but only to the outward shewe, will easily tread the broadest pathe, but if hee perceive that this smooth and even way leads to a neast of Scorpions: or a litter of Beares, he will rather take the other though it be rugged and unpleasant, than hazard himselfe in so great a daunger.

Frost seems to have deliberately chosen the word « roads » rather than « waies » or « paths » or even « pathways. » In fact, on one occasion when he was asked to recite his famous poem, « Two paths diverged in a yellow wood, » Frost reacted with such feeling— »Two roads! »—that the transcription of his reply made it necessary both to italicize the word « roads » and to follow it with an exclamation point. Frost recited the poem all right, but, as his friend remembered, « he didn’t let me get away with ‘two paths!' »

Convinced that the poem was deeply personal and directly self-revelatory Frost’s readers have insisted on tracing the poem to one or the other of two facts of Frost’s life when he was in his late thirties. (At the beginning of the Inferno Dante is thirty-five, « midway on the road of life, » notes Charles Eliot Norton.) The first of these, an event, took place in the winter of 1911-1912 in the woods of Plymouth, New Hampshire, while the second, a general observation and a concomitant attitude, grew out of his long walks in England with Edward Thomas, his newfound Welsh-English poet-friend, in 1914.

In Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant locates in one of Frost’s letters the source for « The Road Not Taken. » To Susan Hayes Ward the poet wrote on February 10, 1912:

Two lonely cross-roads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners. The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much travelled. Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror. Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious stride as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone’s eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home. But I didn’t go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in a wilderness at the same moment of nightfall. Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made out. I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity.

This portentous account of meeting « another » self (but not encountering that self directly and therefore not coming to terms with it) would eventually result in a poem quite different from « The Road Not Taken » and one that Frost would not publish for decades. Elizabeth Sergeant ties the moment with Frost’s decision to go off at this time to some place where he could devote more time to poetry. He had also, she implies, filed away his dream for future poetic use.

That poetic use would occur three years later. In 1914 Frost arrived in England for what he then thought would be an extended sabbatical leave from farming in New Hampshire. By all the signs he was ready to settle down for a long stay. Settling in Gloucestershire, he soon became a close friend of Edward Thomas. Later, when readers persisted in misreading « The Road Not Taken, » Frost insisted that his poem had been intended as a sly jest at the expense of his friend and fellow poet. For Thomas had invariably fussed over irrevocable choices of the most minor sort made on daily walks with Frost in 1914, shortly before the writing of the poem. Later Frost insisted that in his case the line « And that has made all the difference »—taken straight—was all wrong. « Of course, it hasn’t, » he persisted, « it’s just a poem, you know. » In 1915, moreover, his sole intention was to twit Thomas. Living in Gloucestershire, writes Lawrance Thompson, Frost had frequently taken long countryside walks with Thomas.

Repeatedly Thomas would choose a route which might enable him to show his American friend a rare plant or a special vista; but it often happened that before the end of such a walk Thomas would regret the choice he had made and would sigh over what he might have shown Frost if they had taken a « better » direction. More than once, on such occasions, the New Englander had teased his Welsh-English friend for those wasted regrets. . . . Frost found something quaintly romantic in sighing over what might have been. Such a course of action was a road never taken by Frost, a road he had been taught to avoid.

If we are to believe Frost and his biographer, « The Road Not Taken » was intended to serve as Frost’s gentle jest at Thomas’s expense. But the poem might have had other targets. One such target was a text by another poet who in a different sense might also be considered a « friend »: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose poem, « My Lost Youth, » had provided Frost with A Boy’s Will, the title he chose for his first book.

« The Road Not Taken  » can be placed against a passage in Longfellow’s notebooks: « Round about what is, lies a whole mysterious world of might be,—a psychological romance of possibilities and things that do not happen. By going out a few minutes sooner or later, by stopping to speak with a friend at a corner, by meeting this man or that, or by turning down this street instead of the other, we may let slip some great occasion of good, or avoid some impending evil, by which the whole current of our lives would have been changed. There is no possible solution to the dark enigma but the one word, ‘Providence.' »

Longfellow’s tone in this passage is sober, even somber, and anticipates the same qualities in Edward Thomas, as Frost so clearly perceived. Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant had insisted that Frost’s dream encounter with his other self at a crossroads in the woods had a  » subterranean connection  » with the whole of « The Road Not Taken, » especially with the poem’s last lines:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Undoubtedly. But whereas Longfellow had invoked Providence to account for acts performed and actions not taken, Frost calls attention only to the role of human choice. A second target was the notion that « whatever choice we make, we make at our peril. » The words just quoted are Fitz-James Stephen’s, but it is more important that Frost encountered them in William James’s essay « The Will to Believe. » In fact, James concludes his final paragraph on the topic: « We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ‘Be strong and of a good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. . . . If death ends all, we cannot meet death better. » The danger inherent in decision, in this brave passage quoted with clear-cut approval by the teacher Frost « never had, » does not playa part in « The Road Not Taken. » Frost the « leaf-treader » will have none of it, though he will not refuse to make a choice. Nothing will happen to him through default. Nor, argues the poet, is it likely that anyone will melodramatically be dashed to pieces.

It is useful to see Frost’s projected sigh as a nudging criticism of Thomas’s characteristic regrets, to note that Frost’s poem takes a sly poke at Longfellow’s more generalized awe before the notion of what might have happened had it not been for the inexorable workings of Providence, and to see « The Road Not Taken » as a bravura tossing off of Fitz-James Stephen’s mountainous and meteorological scenario. We can also project the poem against a poem by Emily Dickinson that Frost had encountered twenty years earlier in Poems, Second Series (1891).

Our journey had advanced;
Our feet were almost come
To that odd fork in Being’s road,
Eternity by term.
Our pace took sudden awe,
Our feet reluctant led.
Before were cities, but between,
The forest of the dead.

Retreat was out of hope,—
Behind, a sealed route,
Eternity’s white flag before,
And God at every gate.

Dickinson’s poem is straightforwardly and orthodoxically religious. But it can be seen that beyond the « journey » metaphor Dickinson’s poem employs diction— »road » and « forest »—that recalls « The Choice of the Two Paths » trope, the opening lines of the Inferno, and Frost’s secular poem « The Road Not Taken. »

from Robert Frost and the New England Renaissance. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1988. Copyright © 1988 by the UP of Kentucky.

Katherine Kearns

« The Road Not Taken, » perhaps the most famous example of Frost’s own claims to conscious irony and « the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. » Thompson documents the ironic impulse that produced the poem as Frost’s « gently teasing » response to his good friend, Edward Thomas, who would in their walks together take Frost down one path and then regret not having taken a better direction. According to Thompson, Frost assumes the mask of his friend, taking his voice and his posture, including the un-Frostian sounding line, « I shall be telling this with a sigh, » to poke fun at Thomas’s vacillations; Frost ever after, according to Thompson, tried to bring audiences to the ironic point, warning one group, « You have to be careful of that one; it’s a tricky poem – very tricky » (Letters xiv-xv). Thompson’s critical evaluation is simply that Frost had, in that particular poem, « carried himself and his ironies too subtly, » so that the poem is, in effect, a failure (Letters xv). Yet is it simply that – a too exact parody of a mediocre poetic voice, which becomes among the sentimental masses, ironically, one of the most popularly beloved of Frost’s « wise » poems? This is the easiest way to come to terms critically with the popularity of « The Road Not Taken » but it is not, perhaps, the only or best way: in this critical case, the road less traveled may indeed be more productive.

For Frost by all accounts was genuinely fond of Thomas. He wrote his only elegy to Thomas and he gives him, in that poem, the highest praise of all from one who would, himself, hope to be a « good Greek »: he elegizes Thomas as « First soldier, and then poet, and then both, / Who died a soldier-poet of your race. » He recalls Thomas to Amy Lowell, saying « the closest I ever came in friendship to anyone in England or anywhere else in the world I think was with Edward Thomas » (Letters 220). Frost’s protean ability to assume dramatic masks never elsewhere included such a friend as Thomas, whom he loved and admired, tellingly, more than « anyone in England or anywhere else in the world » (Letters 220). It might be argued that in becoming Thomas in « The Road Not Taken, » Frost momentarily loses his defensive preoccupation with disguising lyric involvement to the extent that ironic weapons fail him. A rare instance in Frost’s poetry in which there is a loved and reciprocal figure, the poem is divested of the need to keep the intended reader at bay. Here Frost is not writing about that contentiously erotic love which is predicated on the sexual battles between a man and a woman, but about a higher love, by the terms of the good Greek, between two men. As Plato says in the Symposium (181, b-c), « But the heavenly love springs from a goddess [Aphrodite] whose attributes have nothing of the female, but are altogether male, and who is also the elder of the two, and innocent of any hint of lewdness. And so those who are inspired by this other Love turn rather to the male, preferring the more vigorous and intellectual bent. » If the poem is indeed informed by such love, it becomes the most consummate irony of all, as it shows, despite one level of Frost’s intentions, how fraternal love can transmute swords to plowshares, how, indeed, two roads can look about the same, be traveled about the same, and be utterly transformed by the traveler. Frost sent this poem as a letter, as a communication in the most basic sense, to a man to whom he says, in « To E. T., » « I meant, you meant, that nothing should remain / Unsaid between us, brother . . .  » When nothing is meant to remain unsaid, and when the poet’s best hope is to see his friend « pleased once more with words of mine, » all simple ironies are made complex. « The Road Not Taken, » far from being merely a failure of ironic intent, may be seen as a touchstone for the complexities of analyzing Frost’s ironic voices.

From Robert Frost and a Poetics of Appetite. Copyright © 1994 by Cambridge University Press. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Frank Lentricchia

Self-reliance in « The Road Not Taken » is alluringly embodied as the outcome of a story presumably representative of all stories of self-hood, and whose central episode is that moment of the turning-point decision, the crisis from which a self springs: a critical decision consolingly, for Frost’s American readers, grounded in a rational act when a self, and therefore an entire course of life, are autonomously and irreversibly chosen. The particular Fireside poetic structure in which Frost incarnates this myth of selfhood is the analogical landscape poem, perhaps most famously executed by William Cullen Bryant in « To a Waterfowl, » a poem that Matthew Arnold praised as the finest lyric of the nineteenth century and that Frost had by heart as a child thanks to his mother’s enthusiasm.

The analogical landscape poem draws its force from the culturally ancient and pervasive idea of nature as allegorical book, in its American poetic setting a book out of which to draw explicit lessons for the conduct of life (nature as self-help text). In its classic Fireside expression, the details of landscape and all natural events are cagily set up for moral summary as they are marched up to the poem’s conclusion, like little imagistic lambs to slaughter, for their payoff in uplifting message. Frost appears to recapitulate the tradition ‘in his sketching of the yellow wood and the two roads and in his channeling of the poem’s course of events right up to the portentous colon (« Somewhere ages and ages hence: ») beyond which lies the wisdom that we jot down and take home:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

If we couple such tradition-bound thematic structure with Frost’s more or less conventional handling of metric, stanzaic form and rhyme scheme, then we have reason enough for Ellery Sedgwick’s acceptance of this poem for the Atlantic: no « caviar to the crowd » here.

And yet Frost has played a subtle game in an effort to have it both ways. In order to satisfy the Atlantic and its readers, he hews closely to the requirements of popular genre writing and its mode of poetic production, the mass circulation magazine. But at the same time he has more than a little undermined what that mode facilitates in the realm of American poetic and political ideals. There must be two roads and they must, of course, be different if the choice of one over the other is to make a rational difference (« And that has made all the difference »). But the key fact, that on the particular morning when the choice was made the two roads looked « about the same, » makes it difficult to understand how the choice could be rationally grounded on (the poem’s key word) perceptible, objective « difference. » The allegorical « way » has been chosen, a self has been forever made, but not because a text has been « read » and the « way » of nonconformity courageously, ruggedly chosen. The fact is, there is no text to be read, because reading requires a differentiation of signs, and on that morning clear signifying differences were obliterated. Frost’s delivery of this unpleasant news has long been difficult for his readers to hear because he cunningly throws it away in a syntax of subordination that drifts out of thematic focus. The unpleasant news is hard to hear, in addition, because Fireside form demands, and therefore creates the expectation of, readable textual differences in the book of nature. Frost’s heavy investment in traditional structure virtually assures that Fireside literary form will override and cover its mischievous handling in this poem.

For a self to be reliant, decisive, nonconformist, there must already be an autonomous self out of which to propel decision. But what propelled choice on that fateful morning? Frost’s speaker does not choose out of some rational capacity; he prefers, in fact, not to choose at all. That is why he can admit to what no self-respecting self-reliant self can admit to: that he is « sorry » he « could not travel both/And be one traveler. » The good American ending, the last three lines of the poem, is prefaced by two lines of storytelling self-consciousness in which the speaker, speaking in the present to a listener (reader) to whom he has just conveyed « this, » his story of the past – everything preceding the last stanza – in effect tells his auditor that in some unspecified future he will tell it otherwise, to some gullible audience, tell it the way they want to hear it, as a fiction of autonomous intention.

The strongly sententious yet ironic last stanza in effect predicts the happy American construction which « The Road Not Taken » has been traditionally understood to endorse — predicts, in other words, what the poem will be sentimentally made into, but from a place in the poem that its Atlantic Monthly reading, as it were, will never touch. The power of the last stanza within the Fireside teleology of analogical landscape assures Frost his popular audience, while for those who get his game — some member, say, of a different audience, versed in the avant-garde little magazines and in the treacheries of irony and the impulse of the individual talent trying, as Pound urged, to « make it new » against the literary and social American grain – for that reader, this poem tells a different tale: that our life-shaping choices are irrational, that we are fundamentally out of control. This is the fabled « wisdom » of Frost, which he hides in a moralizing statement that asserts the consoling contrary of what he knows.

from Frank Lentricchia, Modernist Quartet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995: 71-74.

Mark Richardson

The ironies of this poem have been often enough remarked. Not least among them is the contrast of the title with the better-remembered phrase of the poem’s penultimate line: « the [road] less travelled by » (CPPP 103). Which road, after all, is the road « not taken »? Is it the one the speaker takes, which, according to his last description of it, is « less travelled »-that is to say, not taken by others? Or does the title refer to the supposedly better-traveled road that the speaker himself fails to take? Precisely who is not doing the taking? This initial ambiguity sets in play equivocations that extend throughout the poem. Of course, the broadest irony in the poem derives from the fact that the speaker merely asserts that the road he takes is « less travelled »: the second and third stanzas make clear that « the passing there » had worn these two paths « really about the same » and that « both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black. » Strong medial caesurae in the poem’s first ten lines comically emphasize the « either-or » deliberations in which the speaker is engaged, and which have, apparently, no real consequence: nothing issues from them. Only in the last stanza is any noticeable difference between the two roads established, and that difference is established by fiat: the speaker simply declares that the road he took was less travelled. There is nothing to decide between them. There is no meaningful « choice » to make, or rather no more choice than is meaningfully apparent to the « step-careless » politician of Frost’s parable of decision in « The Constant Symbol. »

Comical as « The Road Not Taken » may be, there is serious matter in it, as my reading of « The Constant Symbol » is meant to suggest. « Step-carelessness » has its consequences; choices—even when they are undertaken so lightly as to seem unworthy of the name « choice »—are always more momentous, and very often more providential, than we suppose. There may be, one morning in a yellow wood, no difference between two roads—say, the Democratic and the Republican parties. But « way leads on to way, » as Frost’s speaker says, and pretty soon you find yourself in the White House. As I argue throughout this chapter, this is the indifference that Frost wants us to see: « youthful step-carelessness » really is a form of « step-carefulness. » But it is only by setting out, by working our way well into the wood, that we begin to understand the meaning of the choices we make and the character of the self that is making them; in fact, only then can we properly understand our actions as choices. The speaker vacillates in the first three stanzas of « The Road Not Taken, » but his vacillations, viewed in deeper perspective, seem, and in fact really are, « decisive. » We are too much in the middle of things, Frost seems to be saying, ever to understand when we are truly « acting » and « deciding » and when we are merely reacting and temporizing. Our paths unfold themselves to us as we go. We realize our destination only when we arrive at it, though all along we were driven toward it by purposes we may rightly claim, in retrospect, as our own. Frost works from Emerson’s recognition in « Experience »:

Where do we find ourselves? In a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which, according to the old belief, stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. …If any of us knew what we were doing, or where we are going, then when we think we best know! We do not know today whether we are busy or idle. In times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterwards discovered, that much was accomplished, and much was begun in us. (Essays 471)

Frost’s is an Emersonian philosophy in which indecisiveness and decision feel very much alike—a philosophy in which acting and being acted upon form indistinguishable aspects of a single experience. There is obviously a contradiction in « The Road Not Taken » between the speaker’s assertion of difference in the last stanza and his indifferent account of the roads in the first three stanzas. But it is a contradiction more profitably described—in light of Frost’s other investigations of questions about choice, decision, and action—as a paradox. He lets us see, as I point out above, that every action is in some degree intemperate, incalculable, « step-careless. » The speaker of « The Road Not Taken, » like the politician described in « The Constant Symbol, » is therefore a figure for us all. This complicates the irony of the poem, saving it from platitude on the one hand (the M. Scott Peck reading) and from sarcasm on the other (the biographical reading of the poem merely as a joke about Edward Thomas). I disagree with Frank Lentricchia’s suggestion in Modernist Quartet that « The Road Not Taken » shows how « our life- shaping choices are irrational, that we are fundamentally out of control » (75). The author of « The Trial by Existence » would never contend that we are fundamentally out of control—or at least not do so in earnest.

from The Ordeal of Robert Frost: The Poet and His Poetics. Copyright © 1997 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

Robert Faggen

« The Road Not Taken » is an ironic commentary on the autonomy of choice in a world governed by instincts, unpredictable contingencies, and limited possibilities. It parodies and demurs from the biblical idea that God is the « way » that can and should be followed and the American idea that nature provides the path to spiritual enlightenment. The title refers doubly to bravado for choosing a road less traveled but also to regret for a road of lost possibility and the eliminations and changes produced by choice. « The Road Not Taken  » reminds us of the consequences of the principle of selection in al1 aspects of life, namely that al1 choices in knowledge or in action exclude many others and lead to an ironic recognitions of our achievements. At the heart of the poem is the romantic mythology of flight from a fixed world of limited possibility into a wilderness of many possibilities combined with trials and choices through which the pilgrim progresses to divine perfection. I agree with Frank Lentricchia’s view that the poem draws on « the culturally ancient and pervasive idea of nature as allegorical book, out of which to draw explicit lessons for the conduct of life (nature as self-help text). » I would argue that what it is subverting is something more profound than the sentimental expectations of genteel readers of fireside poetry. . . .

The drama of the poem is of the persona making a choice between two roads. As evolved creatures, we should be able to make choices, but the poem suggests that our choices are irrational and aesthetic. The sense of meaning and morality derived from choice is not reconciled but, rather obliterated and canceled by a nonmoral monism. Frost is trying to reconcile impulse with a con- science that needs goals and harbors deep regrets. The verb Frost uses is taken, which means something less conscious than chosen. The importance of this opposition to Frost is evident in the way he changed the tide of « Take Something Like a Star » to « Choose Something Like a Star, » and he continued to alter tides in readings and publications. Take suggests more of an unconscious grasp than a deliberate choice. (Of course, it also suggests action as opposed to deliberation.) In « The Road Not Taken » the persona’s reasons wear thin, and choice is confined by circumstances and the irrational:

[lines 1-10]

Both roads had been worn « about the same, » though his « taking » the second is based on its being less worn. The basis of selection is individuation, variation, and « difference »: taking the one « less traveled by. » That he « could not travel both / And be one traveler » means not only that he will never be able to return but also that experience alters the traveler; he would not be the same by the time he came back. Frost is presenting an antimyth in which origin, destination, and return are undermined by a nonprogressive development. And the hero has only illusory choice. This psychological representation of the developmental principle of divergence strikes to the core of Darwinian theory. Species are made and survive when individuals diverge from others in a branching scheme, as the roads diverge for the speaker. The process of selection implies an unretracing process of change through which individual kinds are permanently altered by experience. Though the problem of making a choice at a crossroads is almost a commonplace, the drama of the poem conveys a larger mythology by including evolutionary metaphors and suggesting the passage of eons.

The change of tense in the penultimate line—to took—is part of the speaker’s projection of what he « shall be telling, » but only retrospectively and after « ages and ages. » Though he cannot help feeling free in selection, the speaker’s wisdom is proved only through survival of an unretraceable course of experience:

[lines 11-20]

The poem leaves one wondering how much « difference » is implied by all, given that the « roads » already exist, that possibilities are limited. Exhausted possibilities of human experience diminish great regret over « the road not taken » or bravado for « the road not taken » by everyone else. The poem does raise questions about whether there is any justice in the outcome of one’s choices or anything other than aesthetics, being « fair, » in our moral decisions. The speaker’s impulse to individuation is mitigated by a moral dilemma of being unfair or cruel, in not stepping on leaves, « treading » enough to make them « black.  » It might also imply the speaker’s recognition that individuation will mean treading on others.

from Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin. Copyright © 1997 by The University of Michigan

Voir enfin:

La route non prise

Robert Frost, 1916

Deux routes divergeaient dans un bois jaune

Et désolé de ne pas pouvoir prendre les deux

Tout en restant un seul voyageur, je suis resté longtemps

A regarder l’une des deux aussi loin que je le pouvais,

Jusqu’au point où son virage se perdait dans les broussailles

Alors j’ai pris l’autre, tout aussi séduisante

Et peut-être encore plus justifiée

Parce qu’herbeuse et manquant quelque peu d’usure

Bien que franchement, les passages,

Les aient usées à peu près de façon identique

Et toutes les deux se reposaient, ce matin là,

Sous des feuilles qu’aucun pied n’avait noircies

Ah! J’ai gardé l’autre pour un autre jour!

Sachant pourtant comment un chemin nous mène à l’autre

Je doutais que jamais j’y revienne à nouveau

Un jour je me retrouverai à raconter avec un soupir

Quelque part dans un lointain avenir que

Deux routes divergeaient dans un bois, et moi,

J’ai pris celle qui était la moins prise,

Et c’est cela qui a tout changé.


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