The man sitting in front of me on a Parisian café terrace stared sombrely at the busy street and waved his hand at the crowd.
“We are slowly drifting towards a chasm,” he said, shaking his head. “The country will fall into civil strife in a decade or two but the authorities refuse to look at the problem yet. Neither our army nor our law enforcement agencies will be able to control the chaos.”
The other person at our table, a high ranking retired police officer nodded silently. His friend, who had uttered the gloomy prediction, was a well known journalist from what is usually called the right wing of the political spectrum.
This was in the mid-1990s. That conversation has remained in my ears ever since but it rang much louder when I saw in horror, but not in disbelief, the scenes of carnage and panic in Paris on 13 November, hardly two hours after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at Wembley stadium and his urgent warning about the threat posed by terrorism. I was not surprised either when it appeared that Saint Denis, the millennial heart of the French Christian monarchy and the mausoleum of its kings, now mostly inhabited by non-European Muslim populations and long ruled by the communist party, was the hub of the terrorist plots.
I was aware all along that my two friends were right. The tensions between a fast-growing Afro-Asian immigrant population and the autochthonous French have been rising for decades. The country’s successive governments chose to ignore the problem out of expediency or fear of tackling it. While the Left is autistically walled in, in its manufactured certainties about universal human rights, tolerance and (religion-free) multiculturalism, the Right, or rather the Centre, which claims to be on the Right, concerns itself solely with business issues and tries to calculate the assumed positive impact of immigration on the job market and on generational replacement. Both the Left and that Right see the newcomers as new voters or new workers, respectively, but usually refuse to consider the prospect of inter-communal conflict fed by foreign wars, to which these communities are umbilically hooked by satellite television, which daily transports them to Gaza, Benghazi, Raqqa and Cairo.
Yet, these “new French” citizens are active in all aspects of the country’s daily life. They are the grocers, the taxi and train drivers, the waiters and the computer engineers. Who knows how many in that vast and overwhelmingly peaceful population have been recruited by extremist movements and belong to secret sleeper cells?
Both the main political ideologies profess that all problems are economic and that greater prosperity or, in the view of the Left, less inequality will unfailingly resolve them. They simply ignore history, which teaches very different lessons, but that is also because many modern historians choose to emphasise the economic dimension and assert that ethnic, religious and cultural matters are mere emanations of the former. Only the National Front in France and a few minor nationalist outfits have consistently warned about the coming disaster, but they are unfailingly reviled and dismissed by the Establishment as extremist fear-mongers, who do not believe in the universal values of the Republic, supposed to dissolve all ferments of extremism within its inclusive, non-denominational fabric. Nevertheless, many of today’s terrorists are products of the Republic’s secular schools.
Most fashionable ideologues and opportunistic politicians uncritically repeat the utopian slogans of the French Revolution to the effect that “France is the universal nation for all those who don’t have one”. In actual fact, the state’s foreign policy is, since many years, on a collision course with the country’s demographic reality. The traditional great power ambitions of Paris, combined with its growing subordination to Washington DC’s imperial agenda, have alienated the bulk of its Muslim population, which in many big cities is now a massive minority on course to becoming a majority. The largely unemployed and commonly disaffected youth is restless, radicalised and vengeful. Apart from seeing European societies as decadent and perverted, they are easily convinced that the French state invaded and oppressed their nations for centuries and attracted their parents to the mainland to fulfill a need for cheap labour after using their ancestors as cannon fodder in colonial and European wars. Whether this popular view is right, wrong or incomplete, matters little since it is prevalent, shared by the Left-wing intelligentsia and dispensed in school curricula.
Such an embittered population provides a suitable ecosystem for the implantation and spread of terrorist networks connected to foreign state and non-state actors, which excel at using the social media and the new information and encryption technologies in the service of their agendas. The powerful motivators of religious and ethnic solidarity, nostalgia for past historical greatness and teenager thirst for adventure, glory and sacrifice in the service of a mythical ideal are particularly effective in a hedonistic, atomised and agnostic society, in which the targets for recruitment feel like second class futureless citizens.
The terrorist masterminds can easily wind up a self-reinforcing vicious cycle by triggering fear and resentment among the majority, while provoking repression from the government, which, in turn, feeds the anger and alienation of the Muslims and other non-Europeans. The lure of revolution and combat seduces a certain section of young people of “indigenous” stock and Christian origin in the “motherland of revolutions”, especially those fascinated by the virtual violence of video games with which reality can seamlessly meld. Any fulcrum of violence also attracts the entrepreneurs and peddlers of organised crime who benefit from the same dynamic. Thus a formidable network in the service of death and destruction is woven around and within society and high level complicities are inevitably found.
An objective observer must admit that the policies of France, especially since Nicolas Sarkozy’s coming to power, have been highly toxic for the fraying social fabric of the country. The propinquity to the petro-monarchies of the Gulf, fostered by the growing financial pull of Saudi Arabia and the other oil rich oligarchies on the French economy (an influence, which also stems from major financial favours extended to a number of high ranking French politicians) has deprived the country of autonomy in its decision making. Under Presidents Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, France has constantly sided with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel (with which the former two have an alliance of convenience) against their traditional foes, Libya, Syria and Iran. Under the stewardship of Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, France played an obstructionist game in the P-6 negotiations with Iran on behalf of the Jewish and Saudi states.
After taking the lead in a foreign intervention in Libya, demanded by Qatar and poorly disguised as a popular rebellion, Paris committed itself to the removal of the Syrian government at the behest of the tiny Emirate and of Saudi Arabia. France has been unswervingly calling for the military overthrow of President Assad and its replacement by an undefined coalition, presumably to be made up of Muslim Brothers, Salafists and pro-Turkish elements.
Hollande’s government seemed unperturbed by the fact that a long and gruesome civil war was the result of that course of action and by the prospect that a nebula of ruthless Wahhabi-Takfirist warriors would inevitably come to control the region once the regime in Damascus fell. The motto of the self-appointed “Friends of Syria” was “Anybody but Assad”, because Assad allegedly stood with the “real enemies” of Israel and the West, i.e. the Shia Hezbollah and Houthi movements, Iran, Russia and, further away on the horizon, China. Hence, a cynical plot was hatched by the Atlantic alliance to help build up largely foreign “radical” Wahhabi armies against the country’s government.
While Israel repeatedly bombed Syrian regular troops and provided quiet support to certain radical forces such as Jabhat Al Nusra, an offshoot of Al Qaeda — noisily promoted and financially backed by Senator John McCain and other politicians in the US — President Barack Obama’s administration practised an ambiguous policy towards the mysterious Svengali of Daesh-ISIS, at first refusing to aid the Shia dominated government in Baghdad against the fast advancing enemy and then extending to it a very hesitant and back-handed support while continuing to watch with schadenfreude the ISIS’ onslaught on Syria in the thinly disguised hope that it might deal the “coup de grace” to Assad, whom western powers cynically held responsible for the rise of Daesh because of his refusal to relinquish power to the foreign-aided and armed insurgents.
The duplicity of US and European policies has been repeatedly highlighted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who point out the support long provided to the self styled khalifate by the West and its Turkish and Gulf allies until the refugee crisis hit Europe and led to the adoption of a half-hearted decision to combat ISIS, years after many thousands of people from the West had gone to fight the regular Syrian troops unimpeded by their governments. The NATO alliance had unilaterally declared the Syrian regime illegitimate by White House fiat and was apparently willing to condone any illegal action to enforce its will. Even now, the so-called “democratic powers” are bombing targets in Syria in utter disregard of international law, as they refuse to get the government’s permission to do so, even though they would certainly obtain the assent of Damascus if they went through the mandatory diplomatic channels. The “Free World nations” want to show that a government in any developing country is only legitimate if they agree that it is.
The ISIS force looks, in the light of many leaks and even official admissions, as a hybrid between military remnants of the Baathist regime of Iraq, headed by Izzat Ibrahim al Douri and “international brigades” made up of extremist volunteers and soldiers of fortune from all over the Islamic world and Europe. Strangely, the Baathist component and its professedly “Naqshbandi” leadership are never mentioned, while coverage is focused on the apocalyptic looking khalifa, Al Baghdadi, a former long-time prisoner of the Americans, who does not seem to have been seriously targeted by the international anti-Daesh coalition so far. Yet, President Assad is not the only one to have warned the NATO powers that they had made a pact with the devil and would sooner or later be struck by the genii they were nurturing in West Asia.
The connections with the ongoing drama in the WANA (West Asia North Africa) region are multiple. It is not so well known that the Bataclan, the nightclub attacked on that black Friday had belonged to a prominent Zionist family, which held there controversial fund raisers for the Israeli army. On last 11 September, they sold it and reportedly moved to Israel, but it is not clear if that was known to the authors of the hecatomb.
As analyst Thierry Meyssan points out, the French government’s overt and covert operations in Libya, Mali, Syria, Yemen and, more recently, the bombing campaigns against ISIS have put the country in great danger, since those interventions have generated a number of fearsome, if shadowy enemies, from Turkey to Sudan, who all feel betrayed and double-crossed. In the witches’ cauldron of a deeply divided society, in which immigrants and recent refugees mingle with jihadi warriors returning from the Middle East on orders from their headquarters to wreak havoc in Europe, it is to be expected that the fanatical forces, spearheaded by fighters committed to dying for their cause will seize any opportunity to perpetrate carnage, in the belief that they are paving the way for the End of Days and the ultimate triumph of their faith.
Faced with that tragic challenge, the shaky, squabbling and feckless European Union and the outmanned French security forces are no match in the short term to restore tranquility. Indeed, many of the more notorious terrorists of recent years such as Mohamed Merah, the Kouachi brothers and now Abdel Hamid Abaooud, the suspected mastermind of the recent massacre are reported to have been used by French intelligence as assets or informants until they committed their dastardly actions, which suggests either that they were pressured into acting as double agents or that they volunteered in order to disarm suspicions and gain uninhibited freedom of movement. In any case, the authorities were unable to find out and prevent their nefarious designs, even though they received several advance warnings and even conducted simulations of exactly that kind of attack on the very same morning. In the aftermath, American intelligence agencies have reportedly released a lot of information to the French authorities regarding the scope and ramifications of the threat, showing that until the CIA tips its hand, France remains largely in the dark about the peril she is in.
My friends in that Paris café lucidly saw it coming. France has imported the savage violence raging from Tripoli, Timbuktu, Aleppo, Baghdad, Tunis and Aden onto its territory and no candle vigils and peaceful marches will by themselves soothe the aroused furies.
Come Carpentier de Gourdon, convenor of the International Board of World Affairs, The Journal of International Issues, is the author of various books — the most recent being Memories Of A Hundred And One Moons: An Indian Odyssey (2015) — and of many published papers about such topics as history of culture and science, geopolitics, exopolitics, philosophy and aspects of Indian civilisation. He has lectured in several universities in India and in other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas.