Vanity Fair has a lengthy but remarkable article by William Langewiesche on "the dark romance of the French Foreign Legion," an army composed by men with questionable pasts from all over the world, "fighting anywhere, dying for causes not their own." There are some beautiful passages in this article that will make you appreciate the philosophy of the legion:
Recently, near Marseille, an old legionnaire told me about a lesson he learned as a young recruit, when a veteran sergeant took a moment to explain dying to him. He said, "It's like this. There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So fuck off with your worries about war."
With the French withdrawal from Indochina, the Legion returned to Algeria under the command of embittered army officers, many of whom believed that they had been betrayed by the civilian elites and that only they, the officers, had the moral fiber to defend the integrity of France. These were dangerous delusions for officers to have, particularly because the Legion now found itself embroiled in something like a French civil war -- the savage eight-year struggle over Algerian independence. It was an emotional fight, characterized by the systematic use of torture, retributive killings, and atrocities on all sides. The Foreign Legion committed its share of the crimes. It also lost 1,976 men. Altogether perhaps a million people died. It won't matter in a thousand years. For cultural reference, Brigitte Bardot was in her prime.
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