By resorting wholesale to torture to find and kill Algerian independence fighters (whose hands were not clean of atrocity themselves), the France of that era violated its understanding of its own deepest values. Horne writes
But under the stress of a vicious colonial war, the historical inhibition broke down. As early in the war as 1955, a civil servant named Wuilluame produced a rationale for just a little torture.
John Yoo, David Addington and Dick Cheney would have loved this guy. Here's an account of what the French did with their version of "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Alleg was a European and he lived. Many did not. A French enlisted man who found himself assigned to torture duty reported
Very gradually, the people of France proper began to understand what their young men were doing in Algeria. Their horrified reaction was part of what brought down the French Fourth Republic in 1958, set the stage for the disaffected army in the colony to revolt against Parisian authority in 1962, and finally led to a rushed withdrawal from the African colony.
Alistaire Horne wrote a preface to the 2006 edition explicitly drawing out the commonalities with the U.S. experience in Iraq. In particular, he wrote about the result of France's resort to torture against its implacable foes.
We didn't learn. At the request of some U.S military officers, Horne sent a copy of his massive study to then Secretary of Defense (War-Making) Donald Rumsfeld -- and was brushed off with a curt note.
I tend to absorb my history by reading, but there's a simpler, if not easier, way to expose oneself to some of this story: Gillo Pontecorvo’s classic film, Battle of Algiers, is available on DVD.