France and Terrorists

Jon Kofas writes: Europe has a much longer historical experience with political violence than the U.S. From the French Revolutionaries to Mikhail Bakunin, Georges  Sorel, and Herbert Marcuse,  Europeans generally view political violence very differently - almost as a predictable part of  the political opposition -  than the Americans who have been  in relative isolation from the world until the past few decades, and who do not have powerful neighbors to challenge them. The real issue for the American political, civic, business, and academic leaders is to debate what kind of society they  want and value for themselves and for their children. Do they want an open and pluralistic society that continues to interact with the rest of  the world openly while safeguarding its citizens and property, or a closed society that resembles a police state in which people live in constant fear? Bill Clinton told Diane Sawyer that after his heart surgery he became convinced that American politics is very nasty, and that he would work toward promoting a debate without the nastiness that goes with it. We need an honest debate on what kind of society we want. And we need to consider all points of view without minimizing the other's viewpoint as worthless. We need to return to the Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico's belief that truth and wisdom are universal and not the domain of any one individual, school of thought, or institution.  

RH: This expresses the ideals of WAIS. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola  (1463-94) died young, but his "Oration on the Dignity of Man", his most famous work, had a great influence in promoting intellectual and religious tolerance.  Perhaps we should create a category of posthumous WAISers, Herbert Marcuse would not make the list.  We think of him as American because he taught at Columbia, Harvard, Brandeis, and the University of California at San Diego, but he was actually born in Berlin.  In books like One-Dimensional Man (1964), he promoted protest for protest's sake, and he had a great influence on the young protestors of the period.  He really was an intolerant individual.

Randy Black says:  Ms. Negrin begs the question by stating that France didn’t invade a foreign country as a result of terrorist attacks in Paris some years ago. Considering the disaster that passes for French foreign policy and the inability to defend its shores in 2004, perhaps France should have. I am willing to bet that if 20 Algerians hijacked four airliners and crashed into the Eiffel Tower and into l’Arc de Triomphe, killing thousands instead of a few, France might change its mind on the issue. Maybe France no longer has the military capability.
       The world has changed; France was not under a declaration of war by Islamic terrorists until about 1994 as are many other nations today. The fact is that the US didn’t invade any Muslim country a decade ago when we were first attacked at the World Trade Center and when 1,000 were injured and dozens dead. Nor did we invade when the USS Cole was bombed, or when the nightclub in Germany was bombed, and so forth. But at some point, the US determined that “turning the other cheek” or waiting for the UN to get off its derrière was not getting the response that we needed, thus our tactics changed. Thank God.
       Perhaps if France’s leaders including Chirac were not so busy setting up illegal smuggling and kick-back operations with dictators in the Middle East to circumvent the United Nations…. It’s an old story that we already are familiar with,
       A short history of France and how it deals with foreigners and how it does or does not defend its homeland:
Since World War II, France has absorbed large numbers of immigrants for economic reasons, especially from its former colonies. The 1960s saw a steady influx of more than 100,000 workers a year. This immigration amounted to 3 million foreign workers by 1970 and 6 million in the mid-1990s. Without this cheap source of labor, France could not have modernized its economy.
Starting on Christmas Eve 1994, when four Algerian Islamists hijacked an Air France plane, France has suffered from a wave of violence carried out by Islamists of Algerian origins. The hijacking incident ended several days later when French commandos stormed the hijacked jet in Marseilles, killing the four Islamists. In reprisal, the Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique Armée -- GIA) killed four Roman Catholic priests and it was presumably the GIA that engaged in a sequence of violent acts between July and September 1995, leaving in all thirty-five French dead and more than two hundred were wounded in this jihad (sacred war).

The wave of violence in 1995 forced Prime Minister Alain Juppé's government to reinforce an emergency plan, code named "Vigipirate," to mobilize as many as 40,000 police officers, including more than 5,000 soldiers, to security tasks throughout the country. Security agents check bags in the main government buildings and department stores. Identity checks on the street of two million individuals take place with skin color and personal appearance very much kept in mind (as during the Algerian war of independence). These security checks raise questions about the French government's commitment to the protection of civil liberties for resident North Africans. Detention and deportation of suspect activists without charge or trial contravenes both their civic rights and international law.
On September 29, 1995, at the end of a long manhunt, French television viewers watched as the police cornered Khaled Kelkal, a 24-year-old beur (2nd generation Algerian immigrant in France) accused of involvement in terrorists acts, into a dark street in Lyons. In the course of a shootout, the police killed him. Afterwards, one police officer kicked his body; to make matters worse, another screamed "Finish him off! Finish him off!" Many Algerians, while accepting the need to go after Kelkal, found the police actions excessive; "They shot him to death like a dog to teach all of us a lesson," was a widely heard comment.
Islamists arrested for terrorist acts were born not in Algeria but in France; they had enrolled in French schools where, socialized in the shadow of Le Pen's National Front, they learned about "our ancestors the Gauls" with blue eyes and blond hair. Undoubtedly, some of them learned the arts of guerrilla warfare under Western auspices, part of the effort to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. These men returned to France and Algeria, where they fought for the GIA and engaged in attacks so savage they are beyond imagination.

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on: Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: November 25, 2004