Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Rape of Paris

 On November 13, terrorists murdered one hundred and twenty nine innocent victims in Paris. There were several simultaneous attacks across the city, but the bulk of the deaths occurred at a rock concert. There, many of the victims had first been held hostage. The siege ended and eight attackers died, either as suicides or shot by the police.

Paris. The Charlie Hebdo bloodbath is barely ten-months old, and now this. I am a Parisian. I grew up there. I went to French elementary and secondary schools. I have been back to Paris a hundred times. It is not possible to love a city more than Paris.

Now what? At first, we say: we must DO something. We must stand up to terrorism. We must fight back. Sure.

I don’t know what this means. Being angry is fine with me. I AM angry. After Charlie Hebdo, I deplored the fact that most Europeans were insufficiently outraged (see Charlie Hebdo and Europe’s Inability to Get Angry). This bloodbath will strengthen nativist European forces such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Viktor Orb├ín’s Conservative Party in Hungary, Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands and others on the Right. We will hear, more loudly than before, that there is a war going on against the West, waged by radical Islam.

Hmmm... While it IS true that radical Islam is a real problem, this formulation is not helpful, because it doesn’t even begin to answer the question: What is to be done?

Another knee-jerk reaction is equally obvious: The West must uplift and “equalize” the multitudes of unemployed, poor, discriminated immigrants and children of immigrants, many of them young men (always the most violence-prone demographic group), many of them Muslims, many of them radicalized, some of them lured by ISIS. These angry people live in squalid projects and shanty towns on the outskirts of Paris, Marseille and other large cities. These people must be incorporated into the economies of France and other Western countries. They must get an education, jobs, non-discriminatory treatment, the whole nine yards. This goes without saying.

As to ISIS, the mullahs, people such as al-Baghdadi and the other Middle Easterners who inspire such bloodbaths: These are middle-aged men who, from their safe havens, send young men and children, including thirteen-year old girls, strapped with bombs as suicide bombers, to kill dozens or hundreds of people at a time, preferably in schools, market places and concert halls, preferably to kill women, babies and other non-combatants. There are no words to express such evil. There is no imaginable appropriate punishment for this.

The time is approaching when I will conclude that ALL religion is a disease. I still hesitate, but...I’ll say this, at least: Fundamentalist religion is definitely a disease. It is currently most virulent in Islam, as Christianity’s worst sins are largely in the past.

Now that I am done emoting, let me look at this more sociologically. Let me provide some “perspective:”

1. Paris is still safer than Sacramento, Boston, or other American cities. France and the rest of Western Europe are still safer than the US:
US murder rate: 5 per 100,000
French murder rate: 1.3
Sacramento murder rate: 6
Boston murder rate: 8
 Paris murder rate: 2
Amsterdam murder rate: 4.4

2. Why always Paris? I taught courses on Violence and Terrorism at Cal State for many years. Paris was already a favorite target during the 1980s. However, back then, the violence came from various Marxist revolutionary groups such as Action Directe, the German Red Army Faction, the Italian Red Brigades and assorted other “red this and red that” groups. Apart from the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the terrorists were largely European, funded by the Soviets and other Eastern Europeans.

By no means has Paris been the only target over the years: Rome, Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin, Moscow (2002, 170 dead) Madrid (2004, 191 dead), London (2005, 52 dead) Mumbai (2006, 209 dead; 2008, 174 dead) have all had their share, and lest we forget, New York still holds the world record - 2001, almost 3,000 dead.

But Paris remains one of the favorite targets. To terrorists, the three most desirable targets are probably Paris, New York and London. They embody the enemy and its culture, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, democracy, the West, the global capitalist system. Bombing Beijing or Tokyo would make less sense. New York is a bit far (although it wasn’t too far for Al Qaeda).

Paris is a special place. It attracts EVERYONE - the loons, the artists, the refugees, everyone. It is the unofficial capital of Europe - of the world, some might say. When you terrorize Paris, you terrorize the world. Only London and New York (as Osama Ben Laden cunningly knew) offer a similar return on the terrorist’s investment.

Additionally, France used to “own” half of Africa, and a huge number of immigrants has moved to France from its former colonies since World War Two. When I went to high school in a suburb of Paris, many of my class mates were Algerian. Muslims make up 10% of the French population. The country has several thousand young radicalized Muslims who have joined ISIS. You could call this “the revenge of the former colonies.”

By now, France is fairly mixed. I even have some distant Moroccan relatives (the husband of the granddaughter of my stepfather’s sister, if you can figure out who that is).

But the country has more severe assimilation problems than, say, Germany, Scandinavia or the Netherlands, even though the latter are also admitting millions of Middle Eastern and other Third World immigrants/refugees. Perhaps the anger will soon explode there as well.

In sum, there are reasons why Paris (and France) are among the most active flashpoints in the violent Jihad against the West.

3. Similarities and differences with the US: We have millions of immigrants, too, including the eleven million illegals whom Donald Trump would evict. We have an equally stratified and unfair society, with blacks occupying the lowest rung of the ethnic-economic ladder, and Latino immigrants a close second. But we do NOT have political and radical religious revolutionary warfare by the underclass. Trump is barking up the wrong tree. Our immigrants (legal and illegal, Hispanic and others, including yours truly) are an asset to America, not a threat. 

4. The Problem, and Europe’s Future: It’s obvious that there has to be a combination of tough countermeasures AND policies aimed at economic and social uplifting of the third world underclass living in Western Europe.

“Keep them out?” How? Razor wires and mine fields all around Europe? The sort of thing that Hungary, my country of birth, recently started to do in its ugly way? Maybe not this way, but... 

Somehow toughening the outer border controls of the Schengen area? Why not. 

Weather this through, as Europe weathered through the 1980s terrorist wave? That’s part of it.

War? Where? Against whom? I have no idea what sort of “war” we are talking about. Western armies marching in? Nonsense. However:

ISIS does have to be destroyed. Amazingly, there is no cooperation towards this objective. Just a week earlier, Russia lost two hundred people to the same enemy. If the West managed to work with Stalin to defeat Hitler, why on earth can it not collaborate with Putin, a bully to be sure, but not even in the same league as papa Joe? Here, oddly, I agree with Donald Trump. Even the Iranian government has sent its condolences to France for the Paris massacre. A unified and worldwide front against the worst disease of our time seems like a no-brainer to me, as it did against fascism 75 years ago.
© Tom Kando 2015
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