Today, the former NCO tells this anecdote, laughing, adding that he kept "his hand on the butt of his gun throughout the exercise." But when asked if he regrets having succumbed to paranoia, his laughter is interrupted: "No, I will never regret having made such a decision!", Before explaining: "It was in 2013. Today (after Charlie Hebdo or the Bataclan, ed), such a type would probably not pass the selection.
It is true, the French army tightened the screw and did not wait for an attack within it. While the police underwent an attack in his Holy of Holies last October 3, the question of the vulnerability of the French army seemed already settled. The Great Dumb, deployed both in OPEX (external operation) against jihadist movements and in France to protect civilians and places at risk, has already mastered radicalization, with a military efficiency. Really?
AP Photo / Michael Probst
Like other melee units such as paratroopers, alpine hunters, because of their level of requirement, would be little vulnerable to communitarianism.
Muslim soldiers refuse to fight "their brothers"
In the summer of 2019, MEPs Éric Poulliat (LREM) and Éric Diard (LR) were reassuring in their report on radicalization in public services. Despite the context, the armed forces would be "globally watertight" to the threat: "in essence, the military institution is not permissive, thus leaving little room for behavior incompatible with the service of the Nation and republican values" they wrote. The Directorate of Intelligence and Security of Defense (DRSD) would thus follow fifty cases, and thus hold the house. "The proportion of suspicion of radicalization is estimated at 0.05%," says the report, for nearly 115,000 soldiers and 24,000 reservists. Thus the files would be so "in very limited numbers" and would present only "weak signals": "clothing behavior, lifestyle, religious practice, relations, proselytism or attendance of certain mosques".
The problem is that this report also indicated that the Police and the Gendarmerie were also, on their side, "preserved in the whole of any significant radicalization". An affirmation that came to contradict Mickael Harpon. Certainly, the Army has put in place a chain of personnel protection officers, sorting out information about possible radicalizations, which inform the DRSD. Upstream, during recruitment, a security survey is systematically conducted to "rule out any candidate with even weak signals of radicalization".
The army, "globally tight" to jihadist infiltration?
The National Center of Defense habilitation, dependent on the DRSD is in charge of this first control. Downstream and since March 2018, the army is able to expel the soldiers in the process of radicalization after an administrative investigation chaired by a member of the Council of State. But these filters are similar to those of the National Police. They remain imperfect in the face of concealment and radicalization or conversion after entering the police or the army.
It is clear that precedents exist. In 2008, an infantryman infantryman refused to go to Afghanistan to fight "his fellow Muslims". Two others of Mourmelon's 501st Tank Regiment also declined. One of them will be punished by a 40-day break and the termination of his contract as a volunteer. "We choose to engage, we do not choose his mission," they say in the Army. "Less than five cases a year," it was said at the time. But a few years later, a former member of the special forces, passed by the very prestigious 1st RPIMa of Bayonne, joined the ranks of Daesh, in 2015. A dozen former French soldiers, whose units have not been unveiled, would have done the same.
The paratroopers of the prestigious 1st Parachute Infantry Regiment (RPIMa), the elite of the elite, with the other units of the special forces.
Are these cases isolated or the submerged face of the iceberg? On the side of the staff, we want to be reassuring. But the historical precedent exists: during the war in Algeria, many rebels had been formed within the army, and also during that of Indochina. The threat can not be underestimated: the Army remains the perfect place for potential jihadists to learn how to kill.
The army, crucible of assimilation or intercommunity tensions?
Impossible to know the number of soldiers of Muslim confession. But one thing is certain: their situation has changed and the French of immigrant origin are a growing part of non-commissioned soldiers and non-commissioned members. If two decades ago, Muslims could not feel at home in the army, the rations hallal since 2011 and the presence of Muslim chaplains since 2005, in the wake of the creation of the French Council of Muslim worship, changed their situation.
So is the army the crucible of assimilation or is it crossed by tensions, like the rest of French society?
"The Algerian sub-off who sticks a slap to the soldier who does not salute the flag is not a myth!", Slips an infantry officer.
Faced with controversy, the military tend to close ranks and protect the institution. These soothing arguments are based on some glaring examples: the French of Muslim faith who serve under the banner are targets for terrorists, like Mohammed Merah in March 2012. The one who told the negotiators of RAID "love death as much as you love life "had deliberately targeted and executed three French soldiers of Maghreb origin before murdering three Jewish children. And the cases of Muslim soldiers with remarkable fire behavior, in Afghanistan as in Mali, are numerous.
Units more exposed than others
Yet, some testimonials go back. Rather than an example of assimilation, and despite the discipline that makes it a special case, the French army seems to reflect the tensions of contemporary French society. So, a former parachutist NCO reported his embarrassment, at the sight of the Koran on the desk of his superior: "if it had been a Bible, what would have been said?" he added that wine and pork had, most of the time, disappeared from the pots, to the great regret of some. Soldiers would also tend to group together according to their home communities, at the risk of fracturing the esprit de corps. A commando-paratrooper officer from another unit, who has agreed to answer us anonymously, clarifies the situation:
"In fact, it's not at all the same, depending on the units. It is difficult to generalize to the army as a whole, because the units are very different. Some, particularly in support, such as those of the train or transmissions, are infested by community groups of Arab, Caribbean or Mahoran origin. Others, those of melee, like the special forces, the paratroopers, the alpine hunters and the troops of marine, are rather preserved by their level of requirement.
A distinction between unattractive support regiments and more prestigious melee that seems probative, according to an alpine hunting officer who commented, lapidary: "Oh yes, it's the soup there … an appendix Pôle emploi! "In question therefore, recruitment, as also implies the paratrooper commando officer:
"We find these behaviors where the leaders desert their role by weakness, ignorance, or impotence due to the censorship system. This phenomenon is aggravated by suburban recruitment campaigns and the recognition by the highest authorities of the demands of these people, including the huge increase in stocks of pork-free rations, which have even gone pastal. "
Indeed, the army intends to develop its recruitment in so-called sensitive areas. "A very interesting breeding ground that remains to be conquered", according to Lieutenant-Colonel Olivier Destefanis, quoted in Le Parisien in June 2019 on the occasion of the opening of a recruitment center in Saint-Denis. Without a doubt, and since the end of conscription announced by Jacques Chirac in 1996, the army is struggling to meet its recruitment targets. In particular, it can not compensate for the retirement of NCOs, indispensable cadres as the military knows. The annual recruitment target is of the order of 15,000 soldiers. Paradoxically, the end of conscription was aimed at a professional army, but the reality is feared recruitment at a discount, volunteers choosing the army less by vocation than to find a job.
The "deculturation" of "little whites"
In 2017, the employment ceiling was set at 273,280 and only 267,263 positions were filled. In 2018, Seine-Saint-Denis 93 provided 310 recruits, against 341 for Paris or 161 for Yvelines. If the poster campaigns are multicultural, the army has not yet followed the British "model". In 2018, a clip of recruitment had made a great noise: we see a Muslim soldier take off his helmet and his boots to pray during a mission.
The grass would not necessarily be greener elsewhere and ultimately, "the military hierarchy, its necessary rigor and strong traditional values make (the army) the French institution that integrates the best … without making miracle ", tempers the commando-paratrooper officer.
Listening to him, the major problem would not just be the community claims of the French of foreign origin, but "the deculturation of the" little whites "": "A more worrying phenomenon, he tells us before describing it: laziness , lack of will to do well and attachment to the country and its symbols and traditions. "If cases of insubordination are minimal, the problem of" social cases lost time "is accompanied by" illiteracy and rap music. And again, would it be a miracle?
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