Note: A French translation of this article is available here.
This past Friday, over 100 people were killed and countless others injured in a highly coordinated terrorist attack in Paris, France. France’s president, Francois Hollande, was quick to respond and delivered a short speech in which he instituted a state of emergency and then also closed the borders. The next day, he delivered a second speech in which he identified the attackers as the terrorist group, Daesh.
These speeches though, were eerily similar to the speech George W. Bush delivered in the wake of the devastating September 11th attacks. And with media already calling the attacks in Paris “The September 11th of Paris,” one begins to think that France may be following Bush’s path of action following 9/11. In reality though, Hollande’s reaction may be even more detrimental.
To begin with, Bush’s speech resulted in the invasion of Iraq, which directly increased rather than decreased terrorist activity in the Middle East. It destabilized an entire region, not to mention it did nothing to resolve the actual cause of September 11th, which was blowback from years of detrimental policies (a fact which Hollande also conveniently ignores in his speeches). As such, ISIS is an indirect outcome of Bush’s post-9/11 policies in reaction to the tragedy.
Hollande’s mimicking of Bush’s 2001 speech can be viewed as a precursor to him following similar actions. But considering the outcomes of that in the past, if Hollande actually wants to get rid of the threat of terrorists, he certainly shouldn’t follow what the US did after 9/11.
Let’s take a closer look at how similar the speeches are:
In fact, Hollande’s speeches and actions thus far are even worse than Bush post-9/11. First, Hollande immediately closed the borders. Not only does the rhetoric of this place blame on the refugees seeking asylum in France, but also exacerbates the refugee crisis and fuels the human resources of the terrorists. Desperate refugees unable to go anywhere are more likely to give in to terrorist recruiters who promise them a better life. The more appropriate response from France would be to better welcome refugees and help them quickly adapt to their new life in France.
Additionally, in a highly xenophobic and Islamophobic country, he fails to mention that French Muslims and Arabs should not be targeted or blamed. Despite growing Islamophobia in the US, not many claim that Bush’s speech initiated that trend, because he specifically stated Muslims and Arabs were not the enemy. Yet Hollande fails to do this, and instead calls the terrorists “Jihadists,” perpetuating the misuse of the Islamic term.
The reason this is worrying is because we know the rhetoric politicians use always serve a purpose, and Hollande using the same rhetoric the US used to go to war does not bode well. And it’s not new; people and governments will often take advantage of events to further their own agendas. For instance, after the invasion of Iraq, it came out that nearly all of the evidence to spur the invasion had been fabricated. Already, Hollande has stepped up French bombings in Syria and has called for the European Union to also tighten their borders.
All in all, no one wants a repeat of history and certainly no one wants to see more bloodshed. Most French know this, and one hopes that they will loudly demand the French government forge a new path, rather than follow the mistakes of the past.