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Monday, 16 November 2015

Terror in Paris: does M.Hollande know how to respond?

I am not convinced. Alienated young men and psychopathic criminals, most of them born in Belgium and France, go on a killing spree in Paris and the immediate  response of Monsieur Normal is to do the Normal thing: Bomb from great heights the Syrian territory which has the misfortune to be controlled by Daesh. All the evidence seems to point to the conclusion that only those engaged on the ground - notably the remarkably determined Kurdish forces - have made real progress against ISIS. Bombing from great heights always kills the innocent and always creates new enemies, so that Daesh may even seem the lesser evil.

The French and the British have been bombing Lebanon, Syria and Iraq for almost a century. They acquired those territories as spoils of war, taking them from the defeated Ottoman Empire  according to lines in the sand mutually agreed in the 1917 Sykes-Picot agreement (see James Barr, A Line in The Sand - a very informative book)

The UK's Royal Air Force developed its civilian bombing techniques in Iraq in the 1920s which is where Arthur "Bomber" Harris - the architect of RAF raids on Hamburg and Dresden - developed his enthusiasm and his skills. Here is an extract from one of his 1924 reports:

"They [ the Arabs and the Kurds] now know what real bombing means, in casualties and damage: they now know that within 45 minutes a full sized village, vide attached photos of Kushan-Al-Ajaza, can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured by four or five machines which offer them no real target, no opportunity for glory as warriors, no effective means of escape, and little chance of retaliation or loot such as an infantry column would afford them in producing a similar result" [ quoted from Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn B Young, Bombing Civilians: a twentieth century history, page 21]

The French used other methods to control their subject populations. In 1943, for example - forget that there was supposed to be a war in Europe - de Gaulle sought to put down Arab nationalism in Lebanon and Syria by unleashing his Free French troops on a War Crimes spree, documented in James Barr's book. At the same time, the French were funding the terrorists - the Irgun, the Stern Gang -  who were trying to drive the British out of Palestine. See again James Barr's book for details.

France, a very divided country with a long-standing inclination towards authoritarian solutions,  has a very poor record in building social cohesion. The benefits of the "Socialist" system are pretty much closed to the young in general and the non-white communities - predominantly Arab and Muslim - in particular. President Hollande has really done nothing about that. His voting base is a bit like that of Britain's Conservatives - those who benefit from the status quo.

Just as it is easy to be uncritical of migrants and refugees, as if they were all morally superior unfortunates deserving of sympathy, so it will be easy to be uncritical of what France (and the UK) now does in response to the terrorist attack on Paris. But one needs to keep in mind such simple facts as that neither M.Hollande or Mr Cameron is very bright and they will only think of responses which haven't worked for nearly a century now. Bombing more bits of Syria does nothing to address France's problem with its unintegrated and disaffected young people. Belgium - pretty much a non-country - probably has an even bigger problem. Nor does bombing the Other address the evident failings of  bureaucratic "Security" and "Intelligence" systems which seem unable to keep one step ahead of people who in most respects are disadvantaged and disturbed  and who routinely make mistakes (careless talk and so  on) which are not picked up by our oh-so-sophisticated systems or - if picked up - are ignored.


Written and published before President Hollande's address to the joint session of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which tends to confirm my doubts about his leadership. The grip of colonialist tradition is so strong in France that he thought it appropriate to announce that France is despatching a Gunboat - aptly named the Charles de Gaulle - to the enemy's shores

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