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Three French Views of the Christmas Attempt and Its Aftermath
The attempted attack on a Northwest Airlines plane has reignited an American anachronism that we believed extinguished: the Axis of Evil. Barack Obama's election

Three French Views of the Christmas Attempt and Its Aftermath

The attempted attack on a Northwest Airlines plane has reignited an American anachronism that we believed extinguished: the Axis of Evil. Barack Obama's election

The attempted attack on a Northwest Airlines plane has reignited an American anachronism that we believed extinguished: the Axis of Evil. Barack Obama’s election, then his attempts to exit Iraq, to throw up some new bridges in Iran’s direction, and, more generally, towards the Islamic world, led us to believe that the Bushist dialectic of good against evil had had its day.

Well then, not at all! Suddenly, the hardest of the hard voices of the Republican era come to life. Former Vice President Dick Cheney violently strikes out at the weakness of the Democratic president, reminding him America is at war. And one of the potential Republican 2012 presidential candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, declares that, for Obama, respect for the rights of Guantanamo terrorists carries more weight than American lives.

Also See: Le Monde | Terrorism and Laurent Joffrin | Absurd

We remain stupefied that officials from the disastrous Bush administration dare to return to front stage bearing their post-September 11 discourse, that very discourse which gave birth to the war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. How is such a return of the Axis of Evil rhetoric politically possible? We can see but one credible answer.

The Republican crusade of good against evil was the symmetrical double of the Islamist fundamentalists’ anti-Western campaigns. The Axis of Evil on the one hand, the hatred of infidels on the other: underneath radically antagonistic exteriors, the two discourses have an identical religious basis. Good and evil are not political concepts; they are moral, even religious, categories actively present in American culture.

That’s why hardened politicians are tempted to trigger them for their own profit. One could consider the maneuver to be rather commonplace. After all, in France also, the theme of insecurity is jiggled like a little bell before every election. But the American case is more serious, because it revives an ideology that led the free world’s premier power into aberrations that were very harmful to itself as well as to its allies. Obama’s election has not succeeded in definitively turning that page.

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.


Le Monde | Editorial
Tuesday 29 December 2009

Have we buried al-Qaeda too quickly? Eliminated from the territory of the “near enemy” – the Saudi kingdom and its sanctuaries of Islam – losing speed in Iraq (in spite of the bloody autumn attacks), the terrorist network had been restricted these last few months to Pakistani tribal regions and the confines of Algeria, Niger and Mali, where its subsidiary, al-Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb, is developing.

Yet, here it is once again, singling itself out on the ground of the “distant enemy,” the United States, through an – admittedly failed – attack that proves both intention and ability. This attempt perpetrated by a young Nigerian in a plane on its way to Detroit gives prominence to another al-Qaeda “subsidiary,” al-Qaeda for the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This new branch was forged at the beginning of the year. It brings together Yemenite jihadists and Saudi fighters who are mercilessly pursued on the other side of the border, but who find refuge in the tribal zones that escape the Yemenite authorities’ control.

One cannot but observe that today all the elements are brought together to make “happy Arabia” a favorite territory for the terrorist network. Yemen, in fact, is located on a worrying arc of instability that goes from Africa to Asia, from Somalia to Pakistan. The elements of Somali chaos and Pakistani complexity are to be found there: religious radicalism, a quasi-failed state, powerful centripetal tribal forces. On top of that, there are specifically Yemenite troubles: great poverty, unbridled demographic growth, armed rebellion in the North and a secessionist movement in the South.

The United States is not discovering the potential threat al-Qaeda in Yemen represents only today. The US was struck on location as early as 2000 and again in 2008, in attacks on one of its battleships, the Cole, and then on its embassy. Moreover, in 2009, the US began to provide military aid to a regime which, in the past, had sometimes been accused of manipulating radical Islamism in a short-term calculation of its own benefit. Finally, Washington closely followed, even assisted, the Yemenite army’s raids conducted against alleged AQAP camps in December. We can understand American determination. But it is not without dangers: a too-massive engagement in as complex and unstable a theater of operations as Yemen could well create a new quagmire. Which is just what al-Qaeda is looking for.

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.


Laurent Joffrin, Libération
Monday 04 January 2010

The impotence of terrorism…. Consecrated Planetary Enemy Number One after September 11, Osama bin Laden has not achieved any of his mad objectives in ten years of bloody activity. The march towards a “New Caliphate” conforming to his medieval concept of Islam has not moved one step forward. The sole regime that approached that archaic Utopia, the Taliban, was swept away in a few weeks and expelled to conduct an endless guerilla action. The “hypocritical tyrants” he presumed to overthrow in the Muslim world are all in place. Dedicated to crime and suicide, his morbid organization has suffered very hard blows in a “war against terrorism” that has been more effective than people believe. As for its “Crusader” enemies, their power has not been reduced in the slightest. The American army is established in force in the heart of “Dar-al-Islam.” Democracies, which terrorists have always had a tendency to underestimate, are doing neither better nor worse than before. His sole tangible result, in the end, is to have killed a significant number of innocents – often Muslims – and to have rendered air transportation less comfortable. An absurd record for a man who claims to be invested with a historic mission. It’s true that absurdity has never discouraged fanaticism. Thus, bin Laden, who knows nothing else, will continue to kill like a vicious fowl that persists in running around even when it no longer has a head.

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.