In the aftermath the Charlie Hebdo massacre, wrote Francois Burgat, former head of the French Institute for the Near East in a Facebook post, it is tempting to blame the demented ideology of the murderers, to refuse to look at the national and global context that brought them there.
At one end of the chain, before our very eyes, twelve people are executed. It arouses emotions one shares unreservedly. What else is there to say except perhaps, for me, and for many others, damn….Cabu…Cabu did not deserve that.
Neither did the others, I know, but it would be inappropriate for me to speak of them. I didn’t know them. I didn’t know them because I broke completely, long ago, with their paper’s odd conception of freedom of expression.
What else can be said, after utter condemnation, that won’t be taken as a defense of the indefensible ?
At one end of the chain, then, there are twelve people who ought to still be alive. At the other there are those who have arrogated to themselves the right-which they have perhaps raised to a duty-to kill them.
On that side, there’s everything we barely know but – if only to let us understand, and, should the circumstances arise, attempt to forestall, which does not mean to excuse – desperately need to know.
But unfortunately, on that side there are no spotlights; or there are, shall we say, only blinkered spotlights that selectively illuminate certain victims and certain perpetrators.
On that side, a familiar voice in our media reminded us lately that “there is no need for explanations”, since there are only the good-that’s us and those of our religion-and evil. And yet to understand the motives and the actions of the perpetrators we need to examine structures and sources of thought and action, historical references, biographies and passions that are not automatically our own.
And this is where the lack of information makes itself felt. To try to fill in the gaps here is…mission impossible. You would have to remember the reality of an immeasurably deep wound, going back to the night of colonial times (yes, things didn’t just begin last week) that never really healed. An abyss that separates not just a few handfuls of extremists but millions of citizens of Muslim culture[…] and certain aspects of French domestic or foreign policy.
To keep it short, let’s just say it goes from [Socialist President Francois] Hollande’s long period of passivity vis a vis [Israel’s] Gaza massacres, or the programmed death of tens of thousands of Syrians to his sudden warlike response to the execution of a few Christians in Mosul.
I’m referring to all those “courageous battles” which are announced with trumpet and drum in defense of one group or, quite the contrary in the name of the self same principles of the identical Republic, are eternally postponed, when it would be a matter of defending the other group. Indissolubly linked to these glaring contrasts in the behavior of the Republic, there is the way public opinion is mobilized around it, with euphemism and support.
Here as we survey the collection leading inexorably to the Charlie Hebdo catastrophe, we won’t cite[Eric] Zemmour [French pundit who recently proposed deporting the country’s 5 million Muslims] and [Michel] Houellebecq [whose latest novel, which Le Monde describes as ‘nauseating’ projects a future in which France is ruled by Muslims].
They, by themselves, are not that powerful. Rather it’s the interminable crush of those who tamely lynched [controversial black comedian]Dieudonne, although nothing he said was a hundredth part of the horrors emitted by Houellebecq and Zemmour, and then happily turned over their microphones to that pair.
It’s enough to make you wonder if these media types weren’t overjoyed to hear spoken aloud what they had been muttering under their breath for many years.
The latest episode in this long and lethal face-off, which can’t be summarized here in a few sentences, but which it is logical to tie more or less directly with the events in Paris – is clearly the French decision to go to war in August 2014 against one of the new actors in the post colonial restructuring of the Near East, ie the armed group that intends, under the name Islamic State, to establish itself as a successor to at least part of the Syrian and Iraqi states.
Beginning in August 2014, our planes bombard night and day, with a precision for which air strikes are famous, targets designated as legitimate by a particularly broad national consensus. To date this policy had caused several hundred deaths by bombing, in the neighborhoods of Mosul.
As of today there must be added, albeit it in a different category, since the only weapon they carried was their pen, twelve new victims, in Paris this time.
Francois Burgat Translated from French by Suzanne Ruta for International Boulevard
10 Jan 2015