Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald R. Norland
Q: Your first job, you went straight from training to Rabat, where you served from '52 to '56.
NORLAND: That's right. I was supposed to come home on home leave in '54, but they were afraid, so I stayed on and on, and finally left in January of '56, having spent more than three years at my first post.
Q: What was the situation in Morocco when you went there in '52?
NORLAND: This was a fascinating period. Let me give you a quick overview of the '52 to '60 period. In the course of those years, I spent five years abroad under colonial regimes. The only way to understand what was going on in Morocco at that time, and what was going on in Ivory Coast later, was to see that the colonial power was determined to retain its status and maintain its citizens in positions of power and responsibility. It was another mentality. And we're only talking forty years ago. But in Morocco the atmosphere was dominated by the French, in the person of the French resident general sitting in the highest position of authority, with the Moroccan monarchy reduced considerably in stature by the way the French treated him, King Mohammed V. (He was then known as Sultan Mohammed V.)
At that same time, there was percolating in the body politic of Morocco the effects of what an American president had done in 1942. You remember President Roosevelt had met with the Sultan after the Casablanca Conference. He told the Sultan that he would do nothing to facilitate continued French colonialism in the world. And that applied specifically to Morocco.
Roosevelt's word had given rise to feelings of independence, which were focused in the Independence Movement (in Arabic the word is Istiqlal). Istiqlal was banned by the French, it was anathema to the authorities and, of course, it was gaining ground rapidly among Moroccans.
So you had this implacable confrontation between the French on the one hand, with their extraordinary armed forces...I became quite well acquainted with G�n�ral Duval, who was the head of those armed forces for much of the time that I was there...and the Moroccan people. The French armed forces controlled the city, patrolling where necessary. They had spies; they had their ways of exercising authority. And on the other hand, you had the Moroccans, who were quietly going about in their djellabas (long gowns).
The djellaba, in a sense, was a metaphor for their politics—a deceptively common outer garment able to conceal arms while they looked you in the eye and said, “I'm not doing anything wrong, I'm just trying to stay out of trouble,” then going behind the scenes and conducting what we today call terrorist attacks.