- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2002

PARIS In the tiny village church at Conflans-sur-Loing, 60 miles south of Paris, a hundred people crammed into the few available pews on Oct. 30 to pay their last respects to an old soldier. The film star Alain Delon was among them.
Outside, 300 more waited for the coffin to be borne from the church to the local cemetery where, with full military honors and to the sound of a regimental band, Gen. Jacques Massu, 94, was buried.
Earlier that morning, his coffin had lain in honor at the Ecole Militaire near the Eiffel Tower. It had been carried by officers of his former parachute regiment to the chapel, where a Mass was celebrated for him in the presence of Bernadette Chirac, wife of the French president.
President Jacques Chirac had led the tributes to Gen. Massu, hero of the Free French campaign in World War II, veteran of Indochina and later the head of French forces in Germany at Baden Baden. "He was a very great soldier," Mr. Chirac said. "France is grateful to him."
In Algeria, the death of this hero of the republic was front-page news.
"The hangman is dead," said the headline in Le Soir d'Algerie. "Death of a Torturer," read one in Le Quotidien d'Oran.
"He surpassed himself in the art of torture, then revealed the shame of France," reported El Khabar.
It was Christmas 2000, when he was 92, that Gen. Massu, a devout man, chose to make his confession and force France to face its bloody past in Algeria.
Interviewed by Le Monde, he decided not to deny accusations of war crimes in the former colony but to confirm that men under his orders regularly tortured suspects in the battle for Algiers in 1957.
"Torture wasn't necessary. We could have done without it," he said. "But it was all part of a certain atmosphere in Algiers at the time. We could have done things differently. I am truly sorry."
His comments created a sensation. Like many uncomfortable hangovers from France's colonial involvement in Algeria, including the abandonment of the native Harkis who fought against their countrymen, the use of torture was widely acknowledged on the mainland but never openly discussed.
Quickly, that changed. Other soldiers gave their versions of events in the winding streets of the Casbah.
Four months later, the government announced that the national archives on the war were to be made public. Lionel Jospin, then prime minister, said a memorial to the war dead would be built.
Gen. Massu, it seemed, was achieving his long-stated aim of spreading the guilt for France's past. "I have always suffered to see my name associated with torture," he said at the time. "If only La France could also admit and condemn the practice, it would be progress for me."
As he once noted: "After all, I am a soldier and I obey."
But the pomp of Gen. Massu's burial has shown that France refuses to be haunted as the general was for the systematic rape, electric shocks applied to the genitals, beatings and partial drownings.
With Gen. Charles de Gaulle, whose stature and prominent nose he shared, Gen. Massu was a "magnificent warrior" at a period when France had few military heroes to worship.
It is hardly surprising that unlike others who subsequently made more detailed and gruesome revelations, Gen. Massu was never disciplined for his confessions. He was not stripped of his Legion d'Honneur or his pension. Nor was he prosecuted.
The self-confessed torturer was also a hero of the republic. In the nebulous halfway house of France's repentance for the Algerian war, his funeral showed it is still possible to be both.
"In the evening of his life, while France took on the difficult debate over the sorrowful pages of its recent history, Massu behaved with dignity, courage and honesty," Mr. Chirac said in his eulogy.
Shortly after his retirement, Gen. Massu, was more forthright: "No one who hasn't lived it can imagine what urban terrorism was like in that huge Algerian capital."

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