- November 16th, 2015
- Posted by EU Australia
Crowds gathered on Saturday morning, then on Sunday at the Place de la Republique, in the part of the city where the worst outrages occurred, to demonstrate solidarity.
Messages came in from many quarters; President Barack Obama, in the United States, was among the first to pledge sympathy, saying “we have been through this ourselves”; in Australia the tricolor has been hoisted over several landmarks across the country (see pictures).
It underlined the desecration of central Paris as a home of civilisation, cherished universally, hence the adage: France is a second home to all of civilised humanity. Compounding it was a blasphemy, some of the attackers heard calling out the name of God.
FOR THE RECORD
For the record:
On Friday night, gunmen attacked at six points around the city.
Four walked in on a concert at the Bataclan hall, shooting and taking hostages, then as police began to move in, detonating suicide belts, killing altogether 82 at the scene. The Californian group Eagles of Metal Death (picture), called a blues-influenced, garage band had filled the hall, with 1500 people inside.
Other attackers drove by, shooting up restaurants and cafes in the area, filled mostly with young people on a night out.
At the Stade de France football arena, one of the three terrorist ‘teams’ evidently deployed, set off suicide bombs at a fast food restaurant near the stadium entrance.
Spectators watching the home team score a 2-0 victory, in a France versus Germany friendly, got word through social media that the bangs they heard were bombs.
Officials who had kept the game going, thinking to avoid a panic, at Full Time let people onto the field, and bit by bit they filed out, many by then singing the Marseilles.
President Francois Hollande who’d been watching the game was hurried off to the Interior Ministry, later emerging for a televised statement, where he announced a state of emergency for the whole country.
At that moment, the gravity of the situation was clear, but no full details on the incidents, the exact number of them, or the extent of casualties.
He acknowledged that the Islamist militant movement, Islamic State, had claimed responsibility for the murders, and said the terrorist action was a declaration of war that would get a merciless response. By Sunday night a flight of French aircraft had carried out stepped-up missions against Islamic State positions in Syria.
RESPONSE TO MILITANTS
The spirit and intention of the statement from a Socialist Party President (associated with a more humane line on immigration, and drawing political support from migrant communities), is likely to be roundly supported by the conservative parties, to say nothing of the anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant right wing. (Last time, the killing of 12 people after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in January, the National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, immediately ventured a partisan comment, receiving some chastisement – excluded from the official guest list at the national memorial service that followed. She has just the same received a strong “fed-up” vote, burgeoning support in voter intention polls).
Despite it all the ‘West’ is yet to lose its temper over the ‘war’; no turning point on that, no ‘invasion of Poland’ moment, has arrived.
The majority public response, in France, Australia or further afield, could not be called hysterical; more, to date, to wonder at the degradation of the perpetrators, deplore it, try to study it.
ATTACKING A ‘WAY OF LIFE’
Metropolitan Paris has 12-million people, overwhelmingly committed to simple enjoyment at the end of the week – football, a concert, out to a café restaurant.
Said the French Ambassador to Australia, Christophe Lecourtier (picture), those people experienced an “attack on a way of life”. (Video: Hear the Ambassador, “we fought together 100 years ago … we shall never surrender”, http://www.smh.com.au/national/a-war-to-protect-the-values-forged-in-the-trenches-french-ambassador-20151115-gkzivl.html[.])
LIBERTY AND REVENGE
Countries allied against Islamic State have maintained potent but finite military operations in Syria and Iraq, while continuing to preserve the legal rights of their citizens – no blanket, enduring ‘crack-down’ against those rights, in France or elsewhere.
Messages from Islamic State have said that Friday’s raid was revenge against the armed intervention in the Middle East. It may have shattered an era of relative truce in which France, with its large population of variously assimilated Arab-French citizens, has maintained judicious relations in the Middle East, and has been spared some of the worst excesses of terror at home.
The revenge theme, as pressure is increased on Islamic State forces on the ground, has been invoked also for other attacks this year: against a beach resort in Tunisia, a crowded residential block in Beirut, and a plane carrying Russian tourists home from Cairo, shortly after the intensification of the Russian air force campaign over Syria.
Handling of the Black Friday assault by security authorities is still being treated essentially as dealing with major crime – a criminal investigation on a large scale.
Prosecutors in Paris have been open, announcing the early identification from fingerprint files of one of the dead attackers; a petty criminal from the city’s outer suburbs with a possible Islamist involvement against his name. At least eight terrorists were deployed, more than half killed. The prosecutors have also mentioned a Syrian passport found with the dead gunmen, an actual and/or intended link to the recent influx of refugees into European territory.
The pattern is familiar: embittered and marginalised young men from ‘ethnic’ suburbs like Molenbeek in Brussels, maybe drunk on talk about religion, forming gangs, getting arms and support from outside, able to let out their urges in a short-lived period of impunity.
This time, the Belgian police have been rounding up suspects in Molenbeek and elsewhere, thought to have been in a car-load that travelled to Paris. (A car found with weapons stashed in it had Belgian number plates, likewise another car found near one of the crime scenes).
Other arrests have been made, in Paris; they’ve been looking at a set of three brothers.
Yet, all this comes after the event and intelligence services will need to explain missing any signs of preparation.
(There had been an omen; the German Football team were moved out of their hotel after a bomb threat, before the game at the Stade de France).
The operation, whether or not the ‘soldiers’ were ‘crazies’, desperate nobodies, or others, was planned and coordinated. The criminals, reportedly in the age range 15-29, had had their small arms training, using Kalashnikov rifles, with plenty of ammunition and explosives.
CASUALTIES IN PARIS
Their work on the weekend has brought true mayhem: 129 confirmed deaths, with at least 200 people injured, some estimates running up to 350 – between 80 and 100 of those listed in a critical condition.
The Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in Berlin meeting the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said “freedom takes its own stand”, and advised that as yet, security officials were not planning to lift the official level of threat in Australia.
He went on to the meeting of the G20 group of countries, set to begin in Turkey, expected to debate the trends not only in trade, the environment, and the world economy, but mass immigration, and now more than before, dealing with terrorism.
(By strange coincidence, a predecessor of Mr Turnbull as conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, was in Washington at the time of the “nine-eleven” attacks in 2001. It worked to his political advantage, a moment for ‘statesman-like’ declarations in tandem with those coming from President George W Bush. He was able to set up a successful campaign around terrorism themes ahead of the federal elections two months later).
Saffron Howden, Paris attacks: War to protect values forged in trenches, French ambassador says, SMH, Sydney, 15.11.15. http://www.smh.com.au. Video: http://www.smh.com.au/national/a-war-to-protect-the-values-forged-in-the-trenches-french-ambassador-20151115-gkzivl.html