WASHINGTON: The cowards who killed at least 129 unarmed innocents in Paris this evening have provoked the French nation, perhaps beyond endurance. America’s Defense Secretary Ash Carter called the killings “an assault on our common human dignity.”
French President Francois Hollande, who appeared grave and saddened as he first spoke of the attacks, later went to the Bataclan concert hall where at least 100 were murdered and made this stark and grim declaration:
“To all those who have seen these awful things, I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow.”
Hollande took the rare action of closing France’s borders to all travel. One of the cornerstones of the European Union is a commitment to open borders and unrestricted travel within the union. Hollande also declared a state of emergency.
While ISIL had not declared it organized or sanctioned the attack by the time we went to press, various people who claimed to be its supporters expressed jubilation at the slaughter of more than 100 unarmed innocents. At press time, it was not known whether any Muslims were killed. Since France boasts a huge Muslim population there are good odds some were killed.
President Obama made clear America will stand by France, America’s oldest ally.
“This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share,” Obama said at the White House.
“We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond. France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again. And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.
“Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress. Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong. The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share. And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.”
Exactly what precise forms this support will take are so for unclear, but it reasonable to assume that any intelligence America has on ISIL threats to France and to Europe generally will be shared immediately and there will be a reassessment of our policy to Syria since this cancer has spread from there. The comparison to America’s initial strikes against Al Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan after the 911 attacks is inescapable. Whether President Obama and his administration will be capable of embracing a bold and effective policy against the cancer of ISIL is still uncertain.
Ash Carter’s statement is worth reading in full: “This evening’s horrific and barbaric attacks in Paris were more than an attack on the nation or people of France – they were an assault on our common human dignity. As NATO allies, as leaders of the counter-ISIL coalition, as nations working shoulder to shoulder from West Africa to the Indian Ocean, the United States and France will only strengthen our resolve. As the president said tonight, in this moment of tragedy the United States stands with the people of France and its vibrant, multi-cultural democracy. For more than 200 years the United States and France have stood together in friendship. We have stood for the common good and security of all nations. We have never stood closer than we do now. Vive la France.”
Updated Saturday with revised death toll — which sadly will keep climbing.