French parliamentarians and senators put on a show of unity when President François Hollande addressed them in congress assembled Monday to amplify his call to arms.
Eight terrorists were killed last Friday night, in a well planned operation which centered on a famous concert hall on the boulevard Voltaire called the Bataclan (which translates roughly as the whole shebang), in the funky east side République neighborhood. Simultaneously there was an attack at the big stadium, Stade de France, in the northern suburban department of Saint Denis.
The Islamic State attack killed 129, wounded hundreds.
There has been little mention in the press that the Bataclan was long Jewish-owned and managed; just recently it was sold to a non-Jewish business syndicate. The quaint old place was often used, pro bono, for assemblies and events in support of Israel. Anti-Semites and anti-Israel activists, who in recent years have been increasingly recognized as legitimate in France and other European countries, urged boycotts of the concert hall and threatened its erstwhile owners.
It is possible U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was, and remains, unaware of this background. Like his predecessor and his hierarchical superior, he continues to exhibit a cluelessness so breathtaking in the face of the conflict in which we are engaged that one is at a loss to find a historical precedent.
Kerry flew into Paris to hold his French friends’ hands, which was less than what he did nine months ago after murderous attacks on the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, when he brought pop folklorist James Taylor along. Neither this week nor in January did he present any evidence that he knows what is going on. America’s top foreign policy man said that the murders at the Bataclan and other nearby cafes and restaurants were “indiscriminate” and thus, less “legitimate,” or rather (he corrected himself) “rational,” than the more readily understandable attack on a publication Arabs and Muslims felt insulted them and their Prophet.
Hillary Clinton, by way of explanation for the Obama policy in Libya, designed and promoted by her, said there is an “arc of instability” from North Africa to Afghanistan, and this causes trouble to places like Libya. Libya is a terror base and Hillary Clinton long ago washed her hands of it.
Barack Obama, for his part, is adamant that his Syria policy is working, as time eventually will show; but he has not explained what the policy is supposed to accomplish, let alone how this will serve American interests. It is possible that his Syrian policy consists of moving all Syrians to Europe and the United States, but he has not said that.
It really is unprecedented. The 1930s in England come to mind, when the leaders of both major parties, Conservatives and Labour, refused to acknowledge that Germany was arming for war. This denial forced them to find ways of excusing the ever-harsher measures the Nazi regime was taking to enforce its rule. Today, our leaders insist the enemy really is not that dangerous, which forces them to deny his nature, which happens to be Islamic and radical.
To Obama, Kerry, and Clinton, Islam is not a problem and radicalism is nothing but progressivism in a hurry.
Observe that in France, the immediate, and vast, sense of national solidarity in reaction to the January terror dissipated. Grand plans to defend the Republic, to have zero tolerance for Muslim hatemongers, to restore the study of history, of national history, to its rightful place in the school curricula, to go into the “Arab” neighborhoods and propagate, fraternally but firmly, for the secular, humanist values of a modern state, fizzled and were replaced by a sense that doing this might be evidence of “Islamophobia,” racism, neo-colonialism.
A not entirely dissimilar process took place in our own society. United we stood after our country was invaded and attacked on September 11; but soon even leaders who were determined to take the war to the enemy — and did — were marking their words when it came to describe him.
As, following serious blunders, the war appeared winnable with the surge strategy, Americans could digest the somewhat ambivalent, confusing rhetoric that we used to reconcile our ideals — peace, love, tolerance, respect of foreign religions and cultures — with seriousness of war-making purpose. To most Americans, what mattered was that our boys were winning; their sacrifices were for a reason, for us and our future.
When Barack Obama and his team reversed the Bush strategy, a war that might have been won was doomed to failure. The president’s party, denying the evidence because to acknowledge it would doom them to political defeat, pretended to believe in the mythical Islam the president presented to an astonished world. They have stuck to their story, to the point where they themselves may well believe it. To Kerry, the Paris terror of January was due to legitimate grievances by sensitive Muslims; the Paris terror last week was psychoneurotic or something, “indiscriminately” against “humanity” — so crazy that, apart from our own sorrow, we scarcely need worry about it. Notable is the fact that no journalist had the heart, or the breath, to ask Kerry about the Beirut terror of a few days earlier. He might have said there are troubled people in Lebanon due to their unhappiness.
This way of viewing, or not viewing, reality causes every new shock to seem somehow unprecedentedly horrible, but also with no strategic consequences. Thus the president, describing the Paris attacks as a crime against all humanity. This is, with all due respect to the victims, simply not true. The way to show respect for the victims, compassion for their killers, is to finally give up the meaningless abstractions, call things by their name, and act accordingly. If we think of it as another awful indiscriminate psycho explosion, we will sit and wait until the next one.
The French government closed the borders. It is talking about draconian surveillance methods, warrantless searches, arrests and detentions, and war. The carrier Charles de Gaulle is on the way to the eastern Mediterranean to add its formidable arsenal to the battle raging in Syria.
This show of force may not last: we do not know yet how deep the French will is. The sheer enormity of the task may cause people to reconsider their initial resolve to defend themselves, their homeland and their republic. Differences already are arising between left and right regarding the severity of the repression and control that surely will be necessary if France is to regain its security and its dignity.
At least there is a debate. Here, there is a sociologically “real” America that has been steadfast and true, and there is a political elite that has been in denial of reality almost from the beginning and is now living in an absolute vapor of obfuscation, utter nonsense, and sheer lies. And not to forget: notwithstanding the electoral wins of the sociologically real America since 2010, the obfuscators still command the heights.
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