France Seeks Revenge Against ISIS in Syria

Story Transcript

NEWS REPORT: Back on the air right now with more on that horrifying night in Paris. Police have now confirmed at least four attacks in the city of Paris.

NEWS REPORT: So we all laid on the ground. There was panic, screams. Shots continued to be fired.

NEWS REPORT: France was attacked in a violent, shameful way. And our response will be harsh in the face of ISIS’s soldiers.

NEWS REPORT: Official fighting back against terrorists, and terrorists, they’d say, in France. Confirming this afternoon in France that they have launched a series of attacks on two jihadi sites, that is in Syria.

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: On Sunday, as France launched massive air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria in retaliation for the attacks in Paris that left at least 129 dead and hundreds wounded, the Real News spoke to a number of commentators, including Barry Lando, a veteran journalist and author who has lived in France for four decades.

BARRY LANDO: I think there’s already a reaction in Paris. Really you’ve got two different kinds of reactions. One is people are furious, angry. We should go in there and exterminate ISIS. Go full bore into Syria, into Iraq, and wipe them out. On the other hand there’s already, I’m surprised how quick it’s already coming out in the newspapers and comments, people are saying, whoa, just a second. What are we doing in someone else’s war? Why are we inviting this catastrophe, if you will, to come into our own midst by doing this? Because ISIS now has made it very clear, which is what they’ve been trying to do, you take part in attacks against us, we’ll come and get you.

I think for the first time yesterday the people in Paris had an idea of what it must be like to live in Kabul, in, in Aleppo, in Damascus, in cities that are, where people are constantly in fear from their lives from bombings, from attacks, and so on.

NOOR: ISIS may also be trying to provoke a backlash against France’s Muslim population that it can then exploit to its own ends.

LANDO: You’re getting to the point today where some French are saying, yeah, shut down all the mosques. Throw them out. And it’s that kind of blind reaction in a way that ISIS and Al-Qaeda was trying to do, as well, to show that moderate Muslims, and the great majority of France’s Muslims, are moderate. They’re not into ISIS at all. But they’re trying to show them that you can never really be part of France, that the French community in the end is going to drive you out. They are going to repress you, they’re going to close down your mosques. They’re going to arrest thousands of your young people under suspicion. And therefore the only way out is either you leave France or you join us.

NOOR: We also spoke to the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis about the international response to the Paris attacks and what impact the new wave of U.S.-backed French air strikes may have.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: We have a number of dangers here. There is the danger that the world is in mourning only because this is France and not mourning because of the attack in Beirut or the attack in Turkey. So that’s a huge problem. It speaks to racism, it speaks to privilege, it speaks to a whole range of things. Of course we should stand with France at this moment, just as people around the world stood with the United States after 9/11. But we should never allow one incident to dwarf all of the others.

The other thing we have to keep in mind is the degree to which the French president, allegedly a socialist, is channeling George W. Bush after 9/11, who said, we will answer this attack with war. The fact that it’s being supported by the Obama administration is a serious problem. It’s a serious problem because what we’ve seen for the last 15 years, if we needed to see it any more clearly, is that you cannot beat terrorism with war.

NOOR: We also explored the role of France and other powers in the Middle East.

BENNIS: France has treated countries in the Arab Gulf, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, other countries, as simultaneously an oil supplier and arms purchaser. And that’s a very dangerous combination. It’s the same way the U.S. has used those countries.

PAUL GOTTINGER: Russia doesn’t want to see its ally Assad fall. For good reason. I mean, this is their access to the Mediterranean Sea. I mean, there’s a number of reasons. They’re long, long allies. I think strong trading partners, as well.

I mean, Russia is certainly no saint. I mean, a lot of the stuff that’s happening in Syria is being fueled by external powers like the Gulf, U.S., Europe, and Russia are all playing a very large role in what’s happening. Unfortunately none of them are working to alleviate the violence there. They’re almost all trying to escalate it.

NOOR: The attacks and what to do about ISIS played a central role in Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate. We asked independent journalist Paul Gottinger for his response.

HILLARY CLINTON: Our prayers are with the people of France tonight. But that is not enough. We need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates organizations like ISIS, a barbaric, ruthless, violent, jihadist–.

GOTTINGER: If you look at Hillary Clinton’s record she’s quite hawkish. And I think that unfortunately if she becomes president you’re going to see potentially a pretty serious escalation in the war in Syria. I mean, there was a Reuters cable that broke today saying that, I think, U.S. and France are planning to escalate air strikes in Syria. So if you look at her record, I mean, she described her vote in the Senate to go to war in Iraq as a mistake. But a mistake is kind of like burning dinner, not like killing a million people, voting for a war that killed a million people in Iraq and creating the worst terror organization that the world has probably ever known.

BERNIE SANDERS: I only have one area of disagreement with the secretary. I think she said something like, the bulk of the responsibility is not ours. Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely, and led to the rise of Al-Qaeda and to Isis.

GOTTINGER: Bernie Sanders sounds a lot more reasonable. Unfortunately, he’s also quite pro-military. His support for Israel is quite well known. But I think that the debate in the U.S. is pretty constrained. I mean, it’s a pretty pro-war country. So Bernie Sanders is right. I mean, the war in Iraq really ripped things to shreds. But it didn’t–I didn’t see anyone really saying that we need to, you know, work to winding down, wind down the war in Syria.

NOOR: Lando also notes that the day before the Paris attacks a conservative newspaper ran a poll showing large numbers of the French population supported a non-elected government taking power to deal with France’s large social and economic problems.

LANDO: There’s very little faith in the current government. So an action like this could, I don’t think anyone’s talking about military intervention or things like that, but it could certainly encourage government to clamp down, that may be a way of getting increased votes. Throw the book at the Muslims, throw thousands of them into prison. Close the borders. Doing the things that right-wing Marie Le Pen, her party has been preaching for the last couple of years.

Incidentally, another area that I think is going to be coming up that is in the crosshairs, if you will, is the whole question of the immigrant flow to Europe, which as you know has been huge. Like a tsunami over these last few months. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants coming in. That has been kind of a separate issue. Now, however, and over the past few weeks and months people have been saying, well, how do we know that there are not terrorists hiding among these immigrants? And they’ve been using that as an argument, saying we really don’t want them, we shouldn’t be letting them in. But the great majority of people have [saying] no, no, no, they’re fine, we should be helping.

But now it turns out that at least one of those involved in the terrorist attacks on Friday in Paris apparently did, was, looks like he may have been one of those migrants. He came, had a passport showing that he came through Lesbos, the Greek island which is kind of on the migrant route. If that turns out to be true that gives ammunition to everybody who would like us to shut down the flow of immigrants into Europe. It could provide a tremendous backlash.

NOOR: For the Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.

End

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