On Friday the 13th, Paris was hit with a terrorist attack claimed to have been carried out by ISIS (the Islamic State in Syria). Coordinated attacks by terrorists killed 129 people and injured 352 in the middle of Paris. It was a terrible, brutal attack on innocent people. Immediately French politicians went into motion. Within minutes, former president, Nicholas Sarkozy, declared, “We are at war.” French president Hollande echoed, “This is an act of war.” The response of the politicians is clear – they will increase their attacks on the Middle East. Death will be answered with more death. And Sunday, French jets rained down their deadly message on the people of Raqqa, Syria.
The killing did not begin last week in Paris. France is complicit in the horrific death and destruction in the Middle East. Up until 2011, France was the main supporter of Ben Ali, the brutal dictator of Tunisia who maintained his rule in the 1990s by killing hundreds and imprisoning tens of thousands of his opponents. While the people of Tunisia starved and suffered, French presidents and ministers took their holidays in Tunisia.
In 2011, Tunisians rose up and overthrew the dictator. This sparked the wave of revolt known as the Arab Spring, which spread to Egypt and beyond. In 2012, Syrians inspired by those movements, rose up against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad whose Ba’ath party had ruled Syria for decades.
The Syrian uprising’s dream of ending the decades-long dictatorship of Assad has turned into the nightmare of a civil war. Money and weapons have flooded into Syria as the U.S. government and its allies, including France, have funded different armed groups. So far the war has claimed 250,000 lives and half of the population has been driven from their homes by the war.
It is no surprise that the immediate response of the French government to the attacks in Paris, was to send an aircraft carrier to the Middle East. And politicians in both the U.S. and France are calling for a ground invasion of Syria. This should be familiar to those of us in the U. S. who remember September 11th. The attacks claimed by Al-Qaeda on September 11th were used as an excuse to launch wars in the Middle East that have killed more than a million people and have cost over a trillion dollars.
The U.S. war on Iraq was used to install the regime of Nouri Al-Maliki, which then used religious divisions, death squads, torture and brutal repression to rule. The U.S. poured weapons into the country, many of which have found their way into the hands of ISIS fighters. Since the invasion in 2003, over a million people have been killed in Iraq by direct violence, or starvation, disease, and deprivation. ISIS began to grow and take shape in these conditions. Former officers of the Iraqi military were recruited in Iraqi prisons to fight back against the U.S. occupation of their country. Meanwhile U.S. oil companies re-wrote the Iraqi constitution to enable them to loot the economy.
The 129 who have died and the hundreds who have been injured in Paris and the thousands that have been killed by French and U.S. bombs in Syria and Libya are caught in the crossfire of wars based on greed and profit. ISIS has just copied the murderous tactics of those who have attacked the people of the Middle East.
We must condemn the terrorism of ISIS if they are the ones who carried out the attacks in Paris. But we must condemn the terrorism of the U.S. and France in the Middle East that launched this wave of violence and terror. It is always the innocent who die – young people in a French concert hall, thousands of people in New York City, or hundreds of thousands of Syrians and a million Iraqis.
We can’t sit by as thousands are killed in the Middle East and elsewhere. Ordinary people in the U.S., France, and the Middle East have no interest in more violence and more destruction. It is terrorism no matter which force is carrying it out. As the drums beat for the invasion of Syria we have to say loud and clear – No to imperialist war! U.S. and France out of the Middle East!