14 MARCH 1958, Page 20


SIR,—As an old French subscriber of the Spectator (more than fifteen years) I wish to express my pro- found indignation at the title of the unsigned leading article in your issue of February 28, 'Expiating the Crime.' Whether the bombing of the Tunisian village of Sakiet by French planes is a political mistake is a question which can be discussed and I am not a political expert to argue about it.

But that it is a crime which must be expiated by the French (I suppose that your correspondent means the French people)—that is a passionate judgment such as I have never read in your esteemed columns.

The reality is that France is at war in a part of North Africa where 1.200,000 of her citizens are established, a good many for three or four genera- tions, or more, Speaking of crimes, it is true that thousands of criminal actions have taken place in recent years when atrocities have been committed constantly and repeatedly by fellaghas, and exceptionally by exasperated French soldiers. Has your correspondent expressed his indignation in any instance about these facts in the last three years? Some innocent lives have been lost in Sakiet this time; but why conceal the fact that several hundred fellaghas were killed during this bombing near the village in which anti- aircraft guns had been established?

Certainly your correspondent has no right to set

himself up as a judge. The Algerian problem is far more vital for France than that of Cyprus for England. 1 have often sympathised with the diffi- culties met by your country in this part of the world and I understand that it is a long and arduous task to solve them.

May I express the wish that English journalists should realise that our countries are still friends and allies, with common interests in Europe and Africa? We can express opinions on each other's actions, but not verdicts.—Yours faithfully, JACQUES FORESTIER