Had I known, I would have saved the title of my previous chronicle, “From the killing fields to autocracy“, for today. How relevant that would have been now that we are in a suspended state of democracy. As the islamic killing teams wrought havoc to the parisian nightlife last Friday, the bottomless pit of hypocrisy that passes here for national governance has voted to hijack the traditional pitch of the far-right: securty is the first of our freedoms, hence the need to curtail all other freedoms for its sake.
No doubt the islamists are laughing their heads off. Well, if only.
Today, 551 MPs out of 557 voted for the extension of the “Security State”, which I won’t shorten to SS despite the itch, giving extra-ordinary powers to the State to carry out all manners of police operations and limitations of freedom on the basis of “serious reasons to believe” that someone may be promoting or connected to terrorism. For three months. Supposedly.
Now I’m not saying that nothing needs to be done, and activating the Security State for three days, as was done by François Hollande right after the attacks, is understandable as it is vital to catch anything that can be caught before it leaves the country, regardless of red tape. After three days the normal – and already very powerful – means of investigation available to the security services and the police are clearly enough to do the job.
Cutting back on our basic rights in order to fight those who want to cut back on our basic rights is a perversion, not to say a treason.
The Paris attacks were horrible, but could not have come at a better time for the embattled Hollande / Valls governement. It is obviously pure luck that an extensive exercise by the Paris medical services took place that very morning, modelling a “what if” multi-site terrorist attack in Paris, ironing out a number of glitches which would very probably have lead to an even greater death toll.
It is obviously pure professionalism on the part of the police and security services to have been able to trace the ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud to a flat in the run-down suburban city of Saint-Denis, stormed and killed on Tuesday morning. Abaaoud, the best known and most wanted of french-speaking terrorists since at least 2013, supposedly had his picture plastered all over police offices. And everyone thought he was in Syria last Friday. Apparently he wasn’t, he’d been travelling across France and Belgium, planning the attacks. Thankfully the police nailed him quickly after the attacks, just a pity they didn’t put the same effort in it a few days earlier.
It is convenient to have been able to sideline the political debate, in the name of national union, a month before crucial regional elections in which the governing Socialist Party looks doomed in the face of an upbeat right and far-right. Looked doomed. The typical right-wing security posture adopted by the governement is cutting the meat out of its security-obssessed opponents. Conservatives and Nationalists cannot blame Hollande for implementing the Security State, which is exactly what they would have done. There are even calls, on the right, to postpone the elections so they have time to regroup and relaunch a campaign the dynamics of which has suddenly turned against them!
Convenient, too, the new-found ability of the governement to forbid public demonstrations planned for the COP21 climate change conference, due to take place in Paris on November 29 and December 12. The official side of the COP21 will still take place, behind secured doors. Some goodwill on behalf of major climate players such as the USA and China is possible and may help in not making the thing another big waste of time, but in any case whatever fails to happen at the COP21 will be drowned in the noise of breastbeating and bombs droping off all over Syria.
Clearly the timing of the attacks is a very convenient way for french foreign policy to climb out of the damp hole it has dug for itself. It’s focus on getting rid of Bachar el-Assad has weakened the fight against ISIS, and the Russian intervention in favor of said el-Assad made its policy obsolete. France couldn’t get out of this trap without losing face, but now… forget el-Assad, forget Ukraine: France and Russia are best pals again, united in their will to target ISIS, even forcing the US to stop pretenting and actually hitting ISIS where it hurts!
And finally, PM Manuel Valls is able to be his true self at last: he can lash out at evil radical islamism without having to look at why, exactly, things stand as they do. He can now be a real tough-looking war leader, grandly expressing solemn phrases which he surely believes worthy of de Gaulle, pointing angry fingers and sending robocops at those who might dare to disagree, and generally having one testosterone-driven bombastic once-in-a-lifetime hell of a time. At our expense.
Because copy-cating what G.W. Bush and his clique of gangsters did after 9/11 isn’t going to do any good. We’ve been there before: the Patriot Act, bombs, invasions, lies and misplaced opportunism. It all made it worse, it all led to ISIL and the Middle-East being what it is, it all led to the tsunami of refugees rolling over Europe. Untold miseries for millions, wealth for arms makers and shady dealers in oil, weapons and women.
How far do we need to fall before something intelligent happens?
Feel free to check out my other french chronicles here.