By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"We will stay here," one of the men told us, despite the terrorists' vow to return to the village. "We will fight here, and we will die here, because we live here."
The next day, a story in La Tribune said that in roughly the area we visited, at the same time we were there, terrorists had stopped a truck carrying schoolboys and slit the throats of 16 12-to-15-year-olds, plus their driver.
Back at my hotel, I remembered that the first time I ever went on a police ride-along through a high-crime L.A. County neighborhood, I also got there by freeway. It was a ride-along out of Firestone, which used to be both the smallest and the most violent of the L.A. County Sheriff's precincts. Once I was out in the patrol car, the officers told me, "It's easy to understand what's happening here. The strong prey on the weak."
And just before leaving for Algeria this fall, I covered the injunction against the 18th Street gang that is currently being enforced in the LAPD's Rampart Division. The 18th Street gang preys on the weak, making life hellish for residents. But the gang doesn't really threaten Mayor Riordan's grip on the city, nor does it undermine the security of people living in the Palisades or the Hollywood Hills.
Similarly, the government of Algeria is no longer threatened by the Islamic rebels, even if they're killing more people now than previously. And the rich people of Algiers, like the rich people of Los Angeles, can simply buy their security. As the Algerian government spokeswoman predicted back in '95, they've turned their political-insurrection problem into a crime problem. It's just an exaggerated version of Los Angeles.
Algeria has become the first post-global state, a state where money buys everything, including safety, but where the lack of money condemns you to the Triangle of Death.
In August 1993, I had dinner in Chelsea in New York with my old friend Archie. I was describing to him what I had just begun to notice about globalization. As buy low, sell high becomes the pre-eminent law throughout the world, governments everywhere grow weaker; ideology, religion and armies grow weaker. "Which means," I concluded, "all the old bases for conflict are going away."
"Then," said Archie, "we will only have crime."
As I sat in my room at the El Djazair, I suddenly knew what he was talking about.
A few days after our return, we'd distilled the experience into a three-minute piece for the ABC Weekend News. Soon after, CBS sent Christiane Amanpourv to Algiers. Then ABC sent another correspondent.
According to the Algerian Foreign Ministry, for two years before my visit, no U.S. television crew had visited Algeria. But now, the story of the conflict seems to be getting legs. The news has gotten bad enough to make us take notice.
Meanwhile, the day before New Year's Eve, I was editing another story at my offices in Hollywood. At 4 p.m., at the gas station a block away, two gangs opened fire on one another. A 6-year-old girl was struck by a stray bullet and died. It was a tiny Algeria, the kind we've apparently grown to accept, because the story passed away quickly. Two days later, our statewide smoking ban went into effect, one more move in the ongoing battle to protect our middle and upper classes - and just them - from all possible hazard.
I sense a connection in the two events. And I can hear the words of our Algerian government escort in 1995: The situation in Algeria? "You know, it's just like Los Angeles."