The U.S. and France: A Tale of Two Deep States
Mark Twain said, "History never repeats itself but it often rhymes." Wait, if we compare what happened in France between 1896 and 1906 with what happened in the United States between 2016 and the present, Mark Twain might change his mind.
In 1896 France, a massive bureaucracy (think Deep State) used fake documents (think Russia dossier) to court-martial a perfectly innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus for treason and sent him to Devil’s Island. But Lt. Colonel Georges Picquart, head of French counter-espionage, discovered the actual traitor was Major Ferdinand Esterhazy who, via the German Embassy in Paris, was collaborating with the German General Staff. When Colonel Picquart revealed the truth to the army’s top brass (think Deep State) Colonel Picquart was exiled to a barren Foreign Legion post in North Africa.
Fortunately for Dreyfus, several French notables, such as Emile Zola, Anatole France, and Sarah Bernhardt, rallied to the cause of Justice, if not to Dreyfus himself who happened to be Jewish. Anti-Semitism was rife in post-Revolution France. The dispute between the innocence of Dreyfus vs. the Deep State’s efforts to cover up its wrong-dong split French society right down the middle. Friends stopped speaking to friends, some couples divorced, social clubs, salons, and even university faculties split over L’Affair Dreyfus. The MSM of the time disgraced itself by backing the Deep State and ignoring evidence pointing to the innocence of Dreyfus. (think New York Times, the Washington Post, and The L.A. Times.) The honor of France was being tested. And, for a long time, France flunked the test.
Each time new information suggesting Dreyfus was innocent came to light, Dreyfus would be given a new court-martial but some members of the French Army staff, notably Lt. Colonel Hubert-Joseph Henry would get busy forging and taping together incriminating documents (think Russia dossier) and Dreyfus would be convicted again, albeit by fewer guilty votes each time.
Finally, Colonel Picquart was brought back from exile to interrogate Esterhazy who survived a court-martial rigged in his favor and then slipped away to England. (Who helped?) At last, the French Ministry of Defense tasked forensics expert, Captain Louis Cuigenet, to examine Colonel Henry’s pasted-together forgeries. Under questioning, Colonel Henry confessed, was court-martialed, and sent to prison where he slit his throat with a razor conveniently left in his cell by someone. (Deep State?)
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Colonel Picquart, Emile Zola, and politicians such as Georges Clemenceau, Dreyfus was restored to the Army in the rank of major and the honor of France was somewhat salvaged. In fact, Dreyfus served bravely in World War I, earned the Legion of Honor, and was promoted to Lt. Colonel. When Clemenceau became Premier of France, he made Colonel Picquart his Minister of War.. Sometimes, the good guys finish first. Unfortunately, the traitor Esterhazy was able to make a living in England writing anti-Semitic articles for anti-Zionist publications.
Does any of this sound like modern-day America’s Department of Justice and FBI? History records. You decide.
Suggested reading:The Dreyfus Affair: The Scandal that Tore France in Two, by Piers Paul Read, 2012. The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, 1966, contains an informative chapter on the Dreyfus Affair. "An Officer and a Spy," the 2013 historical fiction thriller by Robert Harris tells the story of how Lt. Colonel Picquart struggled to expose the truth about the forged documents that sent Alfred Dreyfus to Devil’s Island.
©2022. William Hamilton