Following the attacks: Understanding the situation.
(kindly translated from my original post by a super cool follower <3)
Allow me to make a post explaining France’s geopolitical situation, as I feel as though everybody is struggling to see beyond either their pain or naivety. This is not me trying to lecture you, but rather me trying to help you to reflect upon a situation which seems confusing. This post is completely my personal opinion, rather than some sort of universal truth, and I would like you to take it as such. Awesomefrench is a personal blog, I hope you leave your neighbourly disputes at the door.
48 hours after the attacks, we were told of a massive bombing on Raqqa, an important stronghold for Daesh, under the guise of an act of retaliation. Which is great, for those who feel we needed to strike back; horror for others, who cast their thoughts to the local populations.
First off, we need to understand the type of strikes that the French government has decided to use. It is, by no meant, an uncoordinated attack; training camps, oil fields… It’s a question of dealing a major blow to the main functions of this terrorist organisation; to training camps in order to prevent the formation of new waves of suicide bombers, and to oil fields to cut off their source of wealth and to remove a source of their economic power. It’s not aimed at schools, hospitals or shops. Their ‘daily life’ isn’t the target, it’s the inner workings of this terrorist organisation that is currently being targeted, and that alone. Up to now, various international operations have been aiming to halt their conquest of new territory and therefore prevent the capture of new areas… and also new victims.
Locals do not live their lives peacefully, hoping for the regression of Daesh. Instead, they live in terror of this organisation: devastated, persecuted, exploited, robbed… Terror does not exist uniquely in these bombings, but lurks more obscurely in torture, murder; in general terms, the barbarity of the oppressor as a whole.
The local population do not leave through fear of death. The path to the Occident is just as long as it is deadly: They’re picked off like rabbits by Daesh and their supporters, they are robbed and abused in ‘exchange’ for a place on a hazardous boat ride, on which they all potentially may die, in order to reach a distant country in which they know they will also face persecution. What keeps them going is not the fear of death, it’s the fear of the oppressor, and of the terror that they inflict. In terror, they find no future. They flee the horror of a life that robs them, they flee violence that is as lethal physically as mentally. But the west is no paradise; it’s their only chance of a future and of escaping the power of Daesh.
It reminds me of a moving documentary about Shoah, in which an incredibly brave girl gives testimony of her time in a concentration camp. She says: “we all knew we were going to die, because everybody dies. What we wanted was to not give them the satisfaction of taking our lives. We prayed that foreign countries might respond, that they might bomb us. We wanted them to bomb us, to end it all, so that nobody would have to replace us once we had died. So me and my mother, we watched and waited for the planes.” This girl really made me think. Us, behind our televisions, with our modern occidental point of view; us, however much we ourselves have been attacked, do we really know the price of terror? Hollande said in January to take to the streets to show our solidarity. In November, he asked us to stay indoors, as the risk of a repeat attack was still very much a reality. So why, then, should we not come together in the streets as we once did? It is so that we do not risk giving them the satisfaction of bringing about our death. Because a grenade in a large group of citizens would be too good of an opportunity, and it is that opportunity that we must never give them the satisfaction of having.
The values that Daesh attack are not only those of the west, or of secularism. They attack, quite simply, values that they do not themselves pertain to, it’s as simple as that. You may cry, you may dance, you may have a resistant spirit; it changes nothing. We’re part of a world that is not their own, and which to them represents a danger. We work to build, to fight, for a better world. We cast our thoughts to the future, to continue to live. Daesh, their ultimate goal is to die as martyrs in the name of God. When we think of humanism, they think of their sacrifice in the name of God. They consider their goal mighty, the mightiest of all, more mighty than life itself. They don’t want to negotiate. There’s no way to bring them back to the reality that the rest of the world is tuned into. They do not see our values as a menace (which is to say, that it entails competition), they see it quite simply as a world to be rid of. They live in a chaos that they seek to spread. For them, it’s God’s mission to spread this chaos.
So where are we then, contextually speaking? What do we have to do?
In times of war, we think primarily of politics, diplomats of questioning. The precariousness of the situation resides in the fact that Daesh wages a war on an ideology, not a war over oil or some such power. It’s about a ‘crusade’, which is exactly what constitutes the first problem.
The second problem is that we’re at war not against a state, not against a diplomacy, but against some obscure organisation, the leaders of which we know little about. How do we talk, negotiate, with people whose identities we do not know? There is no one man at fault, but rather an informal, however organised, group; hidden away, obscure yet stubborn. Daesh possesses a real destructive power, along with capital cities and connections all over the world. The situation no longer concerns some ‘historic’ figure, of which the assailant tries to gain land by pushing their borders. They have likely, by this point, taken possession of a land mass as large as a country. Their presence, on the other hand, is everywhere, likely all over the world. Their organisation is literally scattered across the globe. So, how does one attack a shadow? Where does one start? Do we start right here, in Syria, and to try to reach the highest level of the hierarchy? Must we first ‘clean’ our own countries and destroy the network by increasing the ramifications?
We’re in a time of transition, we need to make some decisions. Because I have become closer with Shoah, and the testimony of this brave survivor, I’m going to continue my comparison. Churchill knew it. He had been informed of the existence of concentration camps, the way they work and the number of victims being held within them. The victims who managed to escape spoke out, though nobody believed them. Such a horror surely could not exist. Prisoner camps, work camps, have always existed, but extermination camps? Churchill did not want to hear about it, or simply he was scared. Whilst this girl, a child, waited for ally planes, Churchill decided to not take action despite the warnings. There comes a time during such conflicts that one must make choices, sometimes educated, sometimes less so. Churchill’s position may not have been the most well thought out, whilst Chirac gave us us a few years of respite by not engaging in Afghanistan along with Bush, a war that he had deemed inopportune. Certainly some breathing room, but for how long? Al-Qaida, Daesh, it’s the same fight. Nevertheless, today they come back stronger, with more weapons, and much more violently. Only posterity can validate or invalidate the decisions that have been taken. With regards to the question “what do we do?” the answer is, well, “do”. We must do something, as an obligation and a priority.
France has chosen to counter-attack, precisely because it is no longer a question of choosing between action and inaction, to attack or to protect. They attack us on our own ground, they soil our values, so the decision has already been made: It is needed, quickly and effectively. Protection and inaction are no longer an option, as Daesh has very clearly declared war. By declaring the state of emergency, Hollande recognises that the threat is real. They are coming to steal and destroy our ideals, and we need to protect it. But, he also realises our fighting power. He has said stop: stop the momentum, stop negotiations, and stop the barbarity on our own ground, on the spot. To not retaliate would have been and admission of helplessness, in the same way that Churchill gave in to the terror of inhumanity.
When American soldiers freed the extermination camps and word ended up on Churchill’s desk, his first reaction was “so it was true.” In a purely personal capacity, I pray that such a reaction is not echoed at the Elysée. I hope that governments do not underestimate the enemy and try to keep them in check. I wish for the citizens of the world to do the same. History repeats itself, we engage in wars, such as how every era of human history enters in ideological wars. No era escapes this rule. The fact that we possess science and modernity changes nothing about the inexorable process of humanity, changing only the rules of the game. Hollande is aware of that; theologians, specialists in politics, philosophers, they are all conscious of it too. It’s time for the rest of the world population to follow suit.