Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald R. Norland
NORLAND: Indeed it was. It was governed under the terms of the Treaty of F�s, which was agreed between Marshal Lyautey and the Moroccans in 1912. In a word, it provided that Morocco would be autonomous, except for defense and foreign affairs, which would be in the hands of the French. And, of course, the French expanded the authority granted them in that loophole (defense and foreign affairs), and literally ran the country. Their investments were the dynamism that enabled the country to be actually quite prosperous and economically interesting. The Moroccans have great tourist potential. One olive oil company, Huile Lesieur, for example, in Casablanca, was a major multinational, we would say today. But the French used Morocco as a kind of training ground for their military. And they were constantly trying to preempt prominent Moroccans and get them to front for their administration.
I was going to say, when Bill Porter and I would drive inland, to F�s, for example, we had to go through roadblocks. And roadblocks meant French military poking their guns inside the windows of the car until you showed them your papers, and then you'd go on. It was a case of strict military domination and not pretty.
Bill handled it very well. He got to know the successive residents general. There was Guillaume, Duval, Dubois, a former prefect of police in Paris, very prominent French politicians in positions of authority. But the Moroccans made their wishes known.
Let me offer one incident that will describe what it was like to live in that country. I was the lowest-ranking officer in the consulate general. Bill Porter, having spent a lot of time in the Middle East (his first post was Baghdad about '36; he went on to Lebanon and Cairo), understood the mentalities, studied Arabic, and knew that the future of the country was with the Moroccan independence movement. And we kept getting informal emissaries from King Mohammed V.
One man, named Sbihi, was one of these quiet Moroccans who would slip in the back door to talk, in anxious tones, to Bill Porter, leaning forward, telling him all the feelings at the palace, how the king wanted help, etc.
Q: This would be Mohammed V.
NORLAND: Mohammed V. We'll call him the king from now on because that's when he changed his name.
The king wanted to cause the Americans to understand that the independence movement would be friendly to us, that Moroccans were not anti-French, but this was the age of independence. They remembered what Roosevelt had said.