Non-French war deaths matter

IssueDecember 2015 - January 2016
Comment by David Swanson

We are all France. Apparently. Though we are never all Lebanon or Syria or Iraq for some reason. Or a long, long list of additional places.

We are led to believe that US wars are not tolerated and cheered because of the colour or culture of the people being bombed and occupied. But let a relatively tiny number of people be murdered in a white, Christian, Western European land, with a pro-war government, and suddenly sympathy is the order of the day.

‘This is not just an attack on the French people, it is an attack on human decency and all things that we hold dear,’ says US senator Lindsey Graham. I’m not sure I hold all the same things dear as the senator, but for the most part I think he’s exactly right and that sympathy damn well ought to be the order of the day following a horrific mass killing in France.

I just think the same should apply to everywhere else on earth as well. The majority of deaths in all recent wars are civilian. The majority of civilians are not hard to sympathise with once superficial barriers are overcome. Yet, the US media never seems to declare deaths in Yemen or Pakistan or Palestine to be attacks on our common humanity.

I included ‘pro-war government’ as a qualification above, because I can recall a time, way back in 2003, when I was the one shouting ‘We are all France’, and pro-war advocates in the United States were demonising France for its refusal to support a looming and guaranteed to be catastrophic and counterproductive US war. France sympathised with US deaths on 9/11, but counselled sanity, decency, and honesty in response. The US told France to go to hell and renamed french fries in Congressional office buildings.

Now, 14 years into a global war on terror that reliably produces more terror, France is an enthusiastic invader, plunderer, bomber, and propagator of hateful bigotry. France also sells billions of dollars of weaponry to lovely little bastions of equality and liberty like Saudi Arabia, carefully ignoring Saudis’ funding of anti-Western terrorist groups.

When US militarism failed to prevent 9/11, I actually thought that would mean reduced militarism. When a Russian plane was recently blown up, I think I imagined for a split second that Russia would learn its lesson and stop repeating US mistakes. When people were just killed in France, I didn’t have any time to fantasise about France coming to its senses, because a ‘socialist’ president was already doing his Dubya-on-the-rubble imitation:

‘To all those who have seen these awful things,’ said François Hollande, ‘I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow.’

The video doesn’t look like Bush, and the French word combat does not necessarily mean war just because the Washington Post says it does. It can mean ‘fight’ in some other sense. But what other sense, exactly, I’m not sure. Prosecuting anyone responsible would of course make perfect sense, but a criminal justice system ought not to be pitiless. It’s a war that ought to be pitiless. And it’s a war that will guarantee more attacks. And it’s a war that France has begun.

‘It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners,’ said Albert Camus.

Please go back to thinking, France.

We do love you and wish you well and are deeply sorry for US influence against your better tendencies.

Topics: War and peace