Paris Resident: Boots on the Ground is the Islamic State’s Dream Come True

Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: The world continues to mourn the victims of Friday’s Paris attacks that killed at least 129 and left hundreds more wounded. The Associated Press is reporting today an international manhunt is underway for now two suspects allegedly involved in the attacks. Arrests have been made across Europe in France, Belgium, and Germany. French president Francois Hollande has called for a three-month extension of the country’s state of emergency and has called for new laws that would allow French nationals to be stripped of their citizenship. On Tuesday, France also stepped up its retaliatory air strikes against the so-called Islamic State in Syria, where they have been joined by Russia. Meanwhile, Britain has also carried out strikes against targets in Iraq.

Well, to discuss all of this and more we go to Paris with Mathieu Lefevre. Mathieu is a Parisian and a dual French-U.S. citizen. He works for a think tank in Paris and in the past has worked for the UN in places like Afghanistan and Lebanon. He lives in Paris with his family. Thank you so much for joining us.

MATHIEU LEFEVRE: My pleasure.

NOOR: So let’s start off by just talking about your own personal reaction to these attacks on Friday. We understand you live just a few dozen yards from where five people were killed in Paris.

LEFEVRE: Actually, that’s where my office is. Literally on our doorstep is where five people were shot on Friday. But you know, on Friday night, like a lot of people I was watching the football game, the France-Germany football game, when the first bombs went off. And you know, at first when we heard the news it sort of–disbelief, I think, was the first phase.

But then in the days since then it’s just, you know, first of all you’re looking frantically for your loved ones, and my wife was at the theater on the other part of town. And you know, the city kind of went on lockdown so she had to sleep in a hotel. And she only came back the next morning. But you know, I was with my two little boys, and you know, you’re frantically looking for your friends, your family. And sadly, a few of those people who died or were wounded were people I knew. Sort of, faces I know. So obviously that makes it very hard. But after that sort of first 24 hours where adrenaline kind of keeps you going, then it’s just–. The last 48 hours, Sunday and Monday, it’s just an immense sadness about what has happened, what these people tried to do to us.

And you know, as more–you know, last night I came home after work, and my kids as they usually do sort of ran to the door and said “Dad, Dad,” but my six-year-old, you know, his first question was, “Dad, what’s a suicide bomber?” Which is not a conversation that I was planning to have with my six-year-old boy. But you know, yesterday there was a moment of silence right by here on [name inaud.] which has sadly been the scene of these gatherings this year after [inaud.] and it’s just, just very hard. I think Paris has been, you know, hit in its heart and in its flesh and in it, what it means.

But now I’m starting to be able to analyze this a little bit. And I’m not sure I’m making sense, but it’s–my strength is coming back a little bit. And I’m sort of thinking in a more sort of political way, I guess, now.

NOOR: So I wanted to get your reaction to what French lawmakers are saying about the attacks, and what they want the response to be. We know President Francois Hollande has carried out new air strikes against ISIS. We know Hollande has urged lawmakers to approve a three-month extension of the nation’s state of emergency laws. He also wants authorities to have the power to strip citizenship from French foreign nationals accused of being terrorists. And that’s Hollande, a socialist. We also have right-wing National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, saying that Islamic fundamentalists must be destroyed, France must forbid Islamist institutions, they must close radical mosques, expel foreigners who preach hate on our soil, as well as illegal migrants who shouldn’t be here. What’s your reaction to that?

LEFEVRE: Yeah. I think–okay, well, two things. I think that the bad guys have a clearer view than we do on what they should do, which is–or what we should do, which is obviously wrong. The Islamic State is really looking to divide us, Parisians, French, and democracies and mixed societies. They want to bait us into coming into Syria and Iraq more. And on the other hand, Marine Le Pen, as your quote points out, has a fairly clear plan.

What is disconcerting to me is that for us, you know, moderates, people who–the youth living in these mixed neighborhoods of Paris that they tried to target, we don’t have a very clear plan, to be honest. I’m not sure that saying that we are at war is a good idea. In fact, I’m sure of the contrary. These indoctrinated lunatics don’t deserve for a proud old country like France and its allies to go to war against them. So I’m not sure that’s the right tactic. I’m also totally against what President Hollande said about nationality. It sounds like a knee jerk reaction, which is the wrong thing to do.

From a political perspective, given French politics, he’s trying to prevent being outflanked by the right, and the extreme right. But on our values I think this is a mistake, frankly.

NOOR: We also wanted to play a clip of Gov. Pat McCrory. He’s one of 27 governors in the United States that have said they will not accept any Syrian refugees to their states.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY: And because of the most recent attacks in Paris, and the very real possibility that one of the terrorists entered France as a recent refugee, I am now requesting that the president and the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina.

LEFEVRE: The attacks on refugees, whether they’re from the National Front or in the United States are idiotic. And unkind. I understand why they are happening, but no data supports this. But it was to be expected.

I think the answer to our, to this question of what should we do, is more complex and will require more maturity. It really breaks my heart, as President Hollande said yesterday, that these are French people attacking French people. These, you know, several of the identified bombers are French. It breaks my heart that they have been to their schools, French schools, and had our health system and our democracy and our freedom, but that they were exposed to this ideology for a few months in Syria it seems, and they were brainwashed by that. There was a failure of our system there, and I think that’s what we need to think about. Think about what we can do better as a society, and not go on the warpath, which is, it just doesn’t work.

I mean, maybe limited air strikes, where it’s maybe more intelligence [means] works. But boots on the ground, as has been suggested by some, is ridiculous. And will lead us to more attacks like this.

NOOR: And so you’re saying this as someone who has spent time in two war-torn countries in the Middle East, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

LEFEVRE: Yeah. Yeah. Certainly. I mean, I think there was some positive effect of, you know, the international community’s action in Afghanistan, particularly in Lebanon. But boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq is just not–it’s the trap that these terrorists want us to fall into, and I don’t think we should give in to a sort of militaristic, pseudo-virile instinct of [inaud.] and I think President Hollande fell into that trap a little bit. I think the answers to this problem are just more complex, and you know, it’s going to take more time to think about this.

But politics doesn’t like a vacuum, so we don’t have that much time, sadly. Because the air is being filled by the Le Pens and the ISIS of the world. They’re dominating this, and so it’s going to be a while until we can come up with a coherent solution to this. And I hope we can. I really do. Because otherwise more attacks will come, in Paris and elsewhere.

NOOR: Thank you so much for joining us, and condolences for your loss.

LEFEVRE: Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.

End

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