Paris is a Warning: There Is No Insulation from Our Wars

Paris is a Warning: There Is No Insulation from Our Wars

The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. What happens there happens here too

‘A march ­supposedly to defend freedom of expression was led by serried ranks of warmongers and autocrats.’ (Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters)

The official response to every jihadist-inspired terrorist attack in the west since 2001 has been to pour petrol on the flames. That was true after 9/11 when George Bush launched his war on terror, laying waste to countries and spreading terror on a global scale. It was true in Britain after the 2005 London bombings, when Tony Blair ripped up civil liberties and sent thousands of British troops on a disastrous mission to Afghanistan. And it’s been true in the aftermath of last week’s horrific killings at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

In an echo of Bush’s rhetoric, the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy declared a “war of civilisations” in response to attacks on “our freedoms”. Instead of simply standing with the victims – and, say, the vastly larger numbers killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria – the satirical magazine and its depictions of the prophet Muhammad have been elevated into a sacred principle of western liberty. The production on Wednesday of a state-sponsored edition of Charlie Hebdo became the latest test of a “with us or against us” commitment to “our values”, as French MPs voted by 488 votes to one to press on with the military campaign in Iraq. To judge by the record of the past 13 years, it will prove a poisonous combination, and not just for France.

Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, still less on the Jewish victims singled out only for their religious and ethnic identity. What has become brutally obvious in the past week, however, is the gulf that separates the official view of French state policy at home and abroad and how it is seen by many of the country’s Muslim citizens. That’s true in Britain too, of course. But what is hailed by white France as a colour-blind secularism that ensures equality for all is experienced by many Muslims as discrimination and denial of basic liberties.

Read the full article at The Guardian.

Seumas Milne

Seumas Milne is a Guardian columnist and associate editor. His most recent book is The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century. His previous books include, The Enemy Within and Beyond the Casino Economy (co-authored with Nicholas Costello). He tweets @SeumasMilne

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