As we write, the number of dead in Paris is 129. Unfortunately, that figure is destined to grow because about 350 people were injured Friday night, some quite seriously. The cultural and political heart of Europe has suffered a terrible massacre.
Paris, on the eve of another carefree weekend, instead lived days of terror, insecurity and fear that spread to other European capitals. The unease was exacerbated by the memory of attacks on Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher deli in January. The saddest fact is that jihadi terrorism has, once again, targeted civilians.
We have not yet finished counting the dead, and already there are those raising loud cries for a new, “necessary” war of revenge. This isn’t constructive.
The one positive rally cry came from Barack Obama, who, in solidarity with France’s pain, said: “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” shorthand for the essence of European civilization. But the rest of the world seldom encounters Europe as an expression of these values, but the opposite: as exporters of war, economic expansion and domination.
In Paris, ISIS jihadists killed methodically, reloading automatic weapons against unarmed hostages, blowing themselves up in near unison, shouting, “Allah is great.” With this religious fundamentalist declaration, the terrorists targeted secular venues of mass entertainment, including a concert stage and a sports stadium. In doing so they also assail millions of people who adhere to Islam as a religion of peace.
What presaged the new attack was not only the litany of other strikes and attempted strikes on European cities, but the continuation of neo-colonial French wars in Syria, Mali, Niger and Chad. America’s war in Iraq was decisive in causing the instability of the Middle East. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in recent days has even asked forgiveness, recognizing that if the invasion of Iraq had not happened, ISIS probably wouldn’t exist.
Now, like a leech, the Islamic State is feeding off the rubble of our wars and amnesia. And in Palestine, we’ve abandoned peaceful strategy and allowed Israel to dictate the Middle East agenda for Europe.
Meanwhile, President François Hollande has declared a state of emergency, closed France’s borders, proclaimed a curfew in areas at risk and prohibited demonstrations. In effect, he has created a police state for the secret services — whose leadership has never stopped terrorism — just when we should be reconfirming the rule of law (unfortunately compromised widely in the European Union by diktat on the economic crisis).
Only democracy defends democracy, by mobilizing popular representation.
George W. Bush’s America replied to the attack on the Twin Towers with the Patriot Act, abolishing habeas corpus, building the concentration camp at Guantanamo and establishing several illegal CIA black sites, including throughout Europe, to torture people.
This kind of response is counterproductive, to say the least, and promotes the terrorist recruitment and their objective of indiscriminate repression for all.
If we answer the attack on Paris with a “European Patriot Act,” we risk an even stronger wave of xenophobia, already rampant as refugees flee to our shores. The French nationalist Marine Le Pen has suspended meetings of the National Front “out of respect” for the victims, but the Islamic State will surely work toward the electoral campaigns of the extreme right in France and the rest of Europe.
If we are “at war,” then how do we respond?
Above all, we must stop wars that sow hatred. A new war led by the West would only feed a fire that began after Sept. 11, 2001.
Since then, the war in Afghanistan has worn on after 14 years of U.S. intervention, and a new generation of jihadists has sprung from the ashes of three states — Iraq, Libya and Syria — shattered by American and French ambitions, fueling new bloody conflict between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. ISIS is coddled and likely financed by Saudi Arabia, a major strategic ally of the West and a foe of Iran. It’s clear that the jihadists are targeting Iran, too, as Tehran works with the U.S. on its nuclear deal, fights ISIS in Syria and forms a new axis with Moscow.
Above all, we must give refugees the status of a privileged interlocutor
They are not just a humanitarian cause but a political asset to forge a new future for the Middle East.
Refugees are witnesses to the failures of our wars and the ferocity of the jihadists; they’re desperate to flee both.
They are the political protagonists of our time. Only by rebuilding their lives Europe can exit this “state of war” and build a better future.