The French have a saying, ‘un malheur n’arrive jamais seul.’ That translates into ‘when it rains, it pours.’ This week, the heavens opened and poured on the nation’s national fete, Bastille Day.
The day began with highly embarrassing revelations by a French satirical newspaper that the unpopular president, Francois Hollande, had a staff hairdresser making $11,000 a month at a time of national austerity. This was a genuine ‘let them eat cake’ moment.
That same evening, a frightful attack occurred in Nice. A demented 31-year old man of Tunisian origin, Mohammed Bouhel, who had just lost his job and then his family through divorce, turned his truck into a mass murder weapon.
Bouhel sent his large truck down Nice’s famed seaside Promenade des Anglais, mowing down people celebrating Bastille Day. As of this writing, 86 victims died and scores are gravely injured, including many children. France reeled in horror.
With exquisite bad timing, President Hollande had just that day ended the state of emergency that was imposed after the November 2015 Paris massacre. He quickly reimposed it for another three months and brought France to near war footing by summoning military, police and security service reserves.
All that evening, so-called ‘terrorism’ experts had been droning on about how the attack was almost certainly ‘terrorism’ and the work of the Islamic State. In the US, the odious Newt Gingrich, who has been financed by ultra-Zionist casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, actually demanded that all Muslims, including US citizens, be tested by the authorities. If they admit to believing in the basic tenets of Islamic law known as Sharia, they must be deported asserted Gingrich, who is better known for abandoning his dying wife than as an expert on Islamic law.
A chorus of other uninformed Republicans raised their voices, including Fox News which called for a ‘world war’ against Muslims and urged the US to invade Syria. Republican anti-Muslim hysteria will be sure to rise in coming days. Donald Trump beat the war drums and growled that the US must take action. He just named ultra-conservative Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate who is notoriously anti-abortion and anti-Muslim.
But after all the bombast and hot air, it turned out that the crime in Nice was the product of a domestic crisis and one man’s suicidal impulses, rather like the three pilots who dove their aircraft into the ocean.
But one must ask, why has France been so often a target of attacks, both by Islamic Jihad and lone wolf gunmen? The answer is complex.
First, France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, over 5 million people, the legacy of France’s long colonial rule over large parts of Africa, Syria and Lebanon. Many are of North African origin, like the truck driver in Nice. They are mostly third class citizens, living in poverty and suffering sharp discrimination.
The jobless rate among young Muslims is around 50%. They live in bleak housing projects like many Americans of African origin, with no future except for drugs and other petty crimes. In short, a potentially explosive underclass that is neither French nor traditionally ‘old country’ Muslim but a rootless urban class of delinquents and petty hoodlums
Second, France has been getting ever more deeply involved militarily and politically in its former colonies. French military forces are fighting in Iraq and Syria, and in Libya, where they helped overthrow and kill Muammar Khadaffi. France has 2,500 troops battling rebels in Mali, and more troops in Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti and Nigeria. French intelligence is active all over these regions and, notably, Lebanon.
In 1992, France worked with right-wing Algerian generals to overthrow and crush the newly elected democratic Islamist government in Algiers. This act triggered the bloody Algerian civil war that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in an orgy of killing and torture.
The Algerian rebels, known as the GIA, were eventually crushed with French help, but not before they spread into Europe and influenced the younger generation of violent rebels, the Islamic State.
France’s government is in a mini-war with various militant groups who adopt the language of Islam but have little to do with traditional Islam. All these factors combined in one truck driver last Thursday night in Nice.