Journalist Barry Lando explains how French airstrikes on ISIS, its military presence in Africa, and contentious relationship with its Muslim community planted the seeds for an attack
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. Authorities in Paris are continuing their manhunt for suspects involved in Friday’s devastating attacks. The New York Times is reporting that two are dead in a raid seeking a top suspect, which resulted in one woman blowing herself up. Meanwhile many, including French President Francois Hollande, have come out for an extension of the state of emergency there in France. Now joining us to give us the latest from Paris is Barry Lando. Barry is the author of the book The Watchman’s File, and he’s also a former producer of the CBS show 60 Minutes. Thank you so much for joining us, Barry. BARRY LANDO: Thank you. DESVARIEUX: So Barry, just give us the latest. We know there are still so many questions that don’t have answers. But can you speak to what we do know about the attack? And I can imagine there must be a sense of reflection there in France. What are the French people asking themselves? Are they asking why France? LANDO: I think at first some of them were asking why France, but really not any longer. It’s very clear that I think to most, why France? Immediately why France because France has been taking the lead in attacking ISIS militarily in Syria, and France has also been very active in North Africa, in the Maghreb, over the last couple of years fighting Islamic radicals in that part of the world as well. So that France has that, that military history. It’s probably second only to the United States as far as the amount of its being aggressive against ISIS militarily, and also then there’s the background of French–the relationship between France’s Muslim population and the rest of France, too. There’s been some tensions between it over the years, tensions have been growing. And as a result of that a number of young people of Muslim descent were attracted by ISIS’ call and went to Syria, and gone to North Africa also to fight France there, or to become part of the new Islamic homeland in, that’s been declared in Iraq and Syria. DESVARIEUX: All right. Get us up to speed in terms of what the conversation is like there in France in terms of security and balancing it with civil liberties. What sort of policies are being proposed? LANDO: Well, the policies that are being proposed are probably very similar to the aftermath of 9/11 in the United States. There have been some people speaking out about let’s not go far, let’s remember civil liberties. But at the same time they are living in the aftermath of one of the most shocking attacks that, maybe the most shocking attack, that France has ever been hit with on its own soil since World War II. So it’s very hard to make an argument that the police shouldn’t be tougher, that laws shouldn’t be tougher, that they should have the right to search homes without warrants, et cetera. To arrest suspects and hold them for days without questioning, or hold them for days without any kind of habeus corpus procedure. That’s normal, and I don’t think that’s being questioned. To much of anything, President Hollande has been criticized for not having been tougher earlier, and not even being tougher right now. In other words, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of young people, young French have returned already from fighting with or training with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. And they’ve been coming back for years, and people on the right have been screaming that they should have been immediately arrested, imprisoned, and held. They weren’t. And in fact, to have done that would have been a tremendous burden on the French police and surveillance system because there are just too many of them. There are probably several thousand of them. DESVARIEUX: But Barry, I would imagine though there aren’t many voices speaking about civil liberties. I mean, if you suspend habeus corpus, if you’re talking about police raids and without any warrants, I mean, where do we draw the line here? I mean, the police will then be able to do what they please. What about those voices? LANDO: There are some voices saying let’s, we can’t go too far. It’s a very delicate situation. We don’t want to trample all domestic, all liberty–all our rights. But that’s not what’s happening right now. And I think the government also is aware of that problem. But right now I don’t think it’s happening. And I think most people right now, and frankly in Paris, are scared stiff and are quite happy to see the police doing what they’re doing. Remember, there were five policemen who were injured this morning when they moved to capture or kill two of the terrorists that they seized this morning. DESVARIEUX: Okay. So for you, you there being in France, in Paris, what is your take? LANDO: My take is that. In other words, I consider myself a liberal democrat, with a small D. And I think that the measures that France is taking right now are necessary. As I said, if you look what happened in the United States after 9/11, with scarcely a blink, scarcely a word out of Congress. It’s the same thing going on here, only I think the French are–and I think the French are equally concerned about their rights as Americans are, probably even moreso. DESVARIEUX: All right. So let’s move on and talk about how do we actually get to a more secure world? What sort of policies should world leaders be addressing in order to have more of a security at home? Because some would argue that if you’re just thinking police state, if you’re just thinking that you’re going to suspend habeus corpus and diminish people’s civil liberties, excuse me, that at the end of the day it’s a slippery slope. And what we really should be focusing on is intervention and ceasing to intervene in places like Libya that create these political vacuums and breeding grounds for terrorists. So do you see that as the key for security at home? LANDO: Yeah, no, I think I’ve argued that from the very beginning, even before the invasion of Iraq, that at heart that is what is the cause of all the turmoil, most of the turmoil in the greater Middle East today. Which was the decision of, actually, the first invasion by George, by H. W. Bush in 1990 when he moved into Kuwait and sent 150,000 American troops into the Middle East. That’s really what got it all started. The Arabs do not want American troops in their homeland. And George Bush’s, George W. Bush’s invasion, overthrowing Saddam, was a further disaster that only created more turmoil, essentially destroyed the very fabric of Iraq, and set the stage for everything that’s going on today. DESVARIEUX: Okay, all right. Let’s pause the conversation there, and in part two we want to talk about Syria and this issue of Assad and if he has to go, which has been the American stance and the West’s stance around that issue. So Barry, just hang tight, we’ll join us for part two. But thank you so much for being with us. And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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