France’s state violence – 10 key truths behind attacks on Paris

There’s been widespread grief and sympathy over the terrible killings in Paris. All very human and commendable.

But, as Jonathan Cook asks, why the selective coverage, outrage and empathy? Were those innocents blown up a day before in Beirut by the, apparently, same Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) not worthy of the same humanity, the same demonstrations of global support?

Those calling attention to the disparity are reminded that Beirut was ‘widely covered’, and that, anyway, rather than blame the media, we ‘more naturally’ incline to tragedies ‘closer to home’, and stories of ‘unusuality’. Yet not only did such coverage constitute a tiny fraction of that on Paris, the massive focus on the latter showed how the whole weight of our emotional response gets packaged around reassuring notions of the ‘more noble society’, and a media-lavished iconography of ‘our higher identity’. Is it really believable that we’re not deeply influenced and directed by such establishment-serving coverage?

Grief as solidarity can mean simple human regard. It can convey basic rejection of brutal killers and their inhuman ideology. But it can also blur who and what we stand together with. Shocked Parisians? Of course. Grieving families? Certainly. The French state and François Hollande’s government? That’s quite a different matter.

For, as Glenn Greenwald documents, emotional exploitation of the Paris atrocity cannot hide the deep complicity of Western states and their Gulf allies in giving rise to ISIS. And a key part of that disastrous agenda involves France and Hollande.

In embracing the tricolour, LaMarseillaise and Eiffel Tower peace avatars, it’s worth thinking about what kind of ‘France’ people may be supporting, the extent of French state killing in foreign lands, and how it has failed to protect its own citizens.

#1 Key truth  France has played a criminal role in the destabilisation of Syria, Iraq and the wider region. AsJohn Pilger puts it, “ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington, London and Paris who, in conspiring to destroy Iraq, Syria and Libya, committed an epic crime against humanity.” Nafeez Ahmed’s penetrating story How the West Created the Islamic State is vital reading here.

#2 Awkward truth  As a consequence of that Frankenstein scenario, France has joined the US in its belated bombing of ISIS. The response we’ve seen in Paris should come as no surprise.Perversely, while bombing ISIS in Iraq, France consciously refrained from targeting ISIS/al-Nusra in Syria, viewing it as a valued part of the effort to oust Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Now, notes Nafeez Ahmed, France’s “reactionary declaration of war [sees it fall] into the ideological trap laid by ISIS.”

#3 Background truth  France’s leading part in the Nato assault on Libya, alongside neo-colonial interventions in Mali and West Africa, has created enormous carnage, hostility and other sources of ISIS-style ‘blowback’. Nicolas Sarkozy also has much to answer for.

#4 Dark truth  France is deeply embedded with the dictator kingdom Saudi Arabia, a key creator and sponsor of ISIS. Hollande’s recent $12 billion arms deal with Riyadh denotes France’s latest muscular presence in the Middle East. While massively profiting from this state-corporate bonanza, France is filling the region with even more armaments, and feeding further instability. Despite criticisms from human rights groups, France also backs the brutal Saudi bombing of Yemen. Is it fine for France to help bomb and murder on these streets, while condemning guns and bombs on the streets of Paris?

#5 Hushed truth  Turkey, a key French/Nato ally, has been a vital conduit and facilitator of ISIS terror, all part of its strategy to remove Assad and contain Kurdish separatists. Turkey has also been assisting ISIS in black market oil running, providing vital finance for the kind of operations we’ve seen in Paris. Why hasn’t France been condemning Turkey?

#6 Home truth  France’s treatment of its Muslim population has been oppressive, discriminatory and racist. This is the real ‘égalité‘ of so many poor and alienated Muslims, allowing a volatile social base for ISIS recruitment and violence. Growing state hostility and suspicion towards Muslims in France, being sold as ‘necessary checks on extremism’, is making social relations even more precarious.

 #7 Alarming truth  France has been pushing for more powers, harsher clampdowns on civil liberties, and deeper surveillance of citizens. Some are calling it a descent into authoritarianism, with the seeming approval of many French citizens. The whole ‘Je Suis Charlie’ hypocrisy should be seen in this light. As Nafeez Ahmed warns, “France’s new state of emergency grants the government extraordinary powers that effectively put an end to democratic accountability, and give law-enforcement and security agencies unaccountable authority to run amok.” So much for cherished notions of ‘liberté‘.

#8 Shameful truth  France has been drawn deeper into Israel’s aggressive positioning over Syria, Iran and its wider geopolitical arc. Backing Saudi Arabia, and lobbied by Israel, France opposed the recent international nuclear deal with Iran, pitching it as even more hawkish than the US. Rather than assist growing efforts for their indictment over war crimes, France has openly welcomed Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. Besides Israel, France is now the only country in the world that bans, prosecutes and jails supporters of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

#9 Selective truth  France has denounced Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria, yet asks us to believe its own “we are at war” bombing of ISIS in Raqqa is legitimate. And, notes Mehdi Hasan, while it’s seemingly acceptable to say Russia’s bombing in Syria has “incited” extremist retaliation, it’s not apparently appropriate to suggest the same about France’s bombing of Syria. Nor will you hear much of the French/Western media amplify Putin’s claim that ISIS is being funded by 40 countries, including G20 states.

#10 Moral truth  France’s state elite and service media, like Western others, proclaim noble ideals of ‘fraternité‘, yet offer no broader concern or generosity for those bombed and murdered elsewhere. Where’s the real ‘universalisme‘? As Cook asserts, if we really wish to see ourselves as ‘civilised’, the dead in Beirut, Gaza/West Bank and other suffering places should be “equally deserving of our compassion”. True moral concern and solidarity can’t just depend on ‘Je Suis‘ sentiment, however sincere, and denouncing ISIS. It also means standing in resolute opposition to dark state actions, questioning propaganda media, and rejecting the exploitative call for more deadly and futile bombing.

Originally published: John Hilley (Zen Politics)

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