Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pondering the Paris Thing

The attacks in Paris happened while Ms Ché and I were at a literary event which was part of the Fall Open House at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe where she is a student in the Creative Writing program. She was reading her poetry along with a number of other BFA and MFA student writers, and afterwards, we went out to dinner and yakked and had a great time and had no idea that anything untoward had happened in Paris until we got home some hours later and I saw something on the Intertubes about more than 100 dead due to terrorist attacks. I pulled up France24 English service, but the news reports weren't really helpful to understand what had happened, and the visuals showed literally nothing more than dozens of emergency personnel standing or milling around. Over and over again, the same shots of emergency personnel standing around.

Yet over 100 were dead due to explosions and gunfire at six locations throughout Paris. At first, I thought they meant there were attacks in 6 cities in France, but I realized they were all in Paris. One of the explosions happened at a McDonalds across the street from the Stade Francais where Franscois Hollande was attending a soccer game. Oh my. That seemed to be the feature story on the news, and truthfully, I was perplexed by the whole thing.

Most of the dead and injured were at a concert venue. The rest were scattered around in various neighborhoods. France was now "at war." What would France do to retaliate? All or almost all of the perpetrators of the attacks were said to have been killed, either at their own hand (suicide bombs?) or by police gunfire (cf: Charlie Hebdo summary executions), so who exactly was France "at war" with?

Ah, and then there was the matter of the borders and all those Syrian (and Iraqi and Afghani) refugees pouring into France and the rest of Europe as the Middle East descends into yet another level of Hell.

Yes, the answer would be, as it must be, "Keep them out!"

Yes, of course, that's what this was really about, wasn't it? Keeping the refugees (migrants as they are known) out of France, ultimately out of Europe. And of course out of the USofA. This is a clash of civilizations, isn't it? The Crusades redux. Or delayed revenge for the Crusades and centuries of colonial exploitation and oppression.

Or something.

So "we are at war." Again. Or Forever?

In revenge for the attacks in Paris, France launched aerial bombing sorties into Syria. Sounds like a plan, no? Tubthumpers throughout the Western World (once known as The Free World, right?) went through their tried and true xenophobic and vengeance routines, and the masses were induced to yet another level of fear of the Other, yet more outpourings of grief, yet more candles lit in honor of the dead, more lights in tricolor bathing buildings everywhere. "We are all Parisians!" "Vive la France!" "Paris Strong!"

It's become a ritual. Whenever terror strikes candles are lit, masses of people gather to mourn, buildings are bathed in colored lights, vengeance attacks are launched on targets far away, politicians posture, and yet more of what passes for "liberty" is taken away from the masses.

Security becomes the watchword and the most important thing. But security how and for whom? To do what?

The Western government response to terror attacks seems highly ritualized since the aftermath of 9/11, and it seems to be always the same -- domestic political posturing, limitations on or eliminations of liberties and freedoms for ordinary people, police crackdowns at home and vengeance attacks ("war") abroad.  The result is always more terror attacks which kick start the cycle once more.

This ritual cycle seems to be universal. Almost like there's a manual of instructions issued to every Western government that says, "this is what must be done" when there is a terror attack by those swarthy foreigners of Muslim extraction.

But wait. There have been terror attacks in Western countries for as long as I've been alive, and until 9/11, they were not responded to this way. Far from it. Military response was almost unheard of. What a waste of resource, right? Governments did not make "war" against terrorists, the idea would be considered insane. Large scale rebellions -- such as that in Northern Ireland -- might have a quasi-military response. But even then, the idea of "total war" against Irish rebels (for example) would have been seen as madness.

Because it was madness.

And yet, since 9/11, such madness has ruled judgement in Western capitals. A terror attack (by Muslims) must be responded to in a certain ritual fashion and no other. Subsequent terror attacks are guaranteed. In fact, nothing is really done to prevent them. The response seems to always lead to the creation of more instability in Moslem countries, more civil war, and the creation of more terrorists.

The cycle continues in perpetuity.

It's madness.


  1. Che,

    You make a good point, which I have not seen anyone else make: that terrorist acts have occurred many times in many places and until 9/11 the idea of these attacks being met with calls for war was considered ridiculous. (Well, except there was the Archduke Ferdinand thing...)

    France is now curtailing public protest; for instance, a previously planned and approved (massive, from what I've heard) protest against the TTIP and one against GMO food in the EU have now been cancelled by the authorities. The timing is exquisite, even if accidental, no?

    Great article.

    - Teri

    1. Ah yes, that Archduke Thing back in Sarajevo.

      And could it be that a reason why terrorism hasn't -- until recently -- been responded to with war is the unholy horror of what happened after Sarajevo? Could it be? I don't know. Wasn't there. Don't have that kind of insight into the thinking (such as it is) of our ruling class. But damn, it's just crazy what's been going on, and it seems that no Western government is sane anymore ... if they ever were.

      Yes, I noticed the exquisite timing of the Paris attacks and the consequences for protest activities. Convenient, yes. Accidental? Maybe. When we look at who were the targets -- primarily young people out for a good time -- I suspect the attacks were carefully thought through for the production of the maximum effect.

      But it could have been an accident too...

    2. "A pro-refugee protest in the French capital briefly turned violent as police scuffled with demonstrators who had broken the government’s state of emergency ban on assemblies imposed in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks.
      "The Paris protest ended with riot police using pepper spray and batons against hundreds of pro-refugee demonstrators who marched from the Bastille to the Place de la Republique despite a ban on protests imposed by the French government on November 22.

      "Local police notified the organizer that if the rally wasn’t canceled, they could face up to six months in prison. However, the warning was issued in vain. [...]"

      I've got a kid in France right now. (He was in Baltimore during the Freddie Gray murder fall-out, as well. His life is not boring, anyway.)

      We've had some very interesting conversations, to say the least.

      - Teri

  2. My first reaction was yes exquisite and very convenient timing that would push the Climate Conference off the public stage and the world media for months...who knows anymore what is true blow back and what is in your face manipulation by forces working a more hidden agenda...

    All I know is that for 50+ years pretty much all secular voices, left leaning political parties other than Baathists have been violently suppressed totally through out the Arab world and greater mid-east and western Asia leaving a unnatural void for insane Jihadists, or Royal Families and/ or dictators left standing as the only way to govern a large swath of the planet and that part of history is NOT an accident.

    1. This is a good insight.

      The long term policy of our government has been to destroy the secular, socialist, and by and large "progressive" governments and movements in the Middle East. It's left a vacuum filled by a raft of radical movements and reactionary dictatorial governments which have kept the Middle East in chaos for years. Condolezza was infamous for calling the situation -- upheavals -- caused by the Bush Wars "the birth pangs of a New Middle East."

      True enough, but to what object? She and they could never say, and the current government in DC can't say either.

      The Paris attacks seemed to come at a time when Europeans were beginning to open their eyes about what was being done to them by their neo-liberal overlords, and those eyes have been shut tight after the attacks.

      It's hard to think there wasn't a false-flag element involved or at least that governments weren't prepared to implement reactionary responses. Shades of the Patriot Act, etc.