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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Attack in Nice: is the political debate being devalued?

by Lionel Venturini

Attack in Nice: is the political debate being devalued

Translated Tuesday 19 July 2016, by Anne Sanders

Several leaders from the Right have taken advantage of the carnage on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice to demand a new approach to security, when that taken by François Hollande has already proved ineffectual.

The country has behaved with dignity in the face of the attack in Nice, following the previous ones of Charlie and Bataclan, as testified by the influx of blood donors to Nice. Can the same be said of some politicians who think that the top priority is to look for a political advantage from corpses which are still warm? The most hawkish are on the Right, with, on the highest step of the podium, the Republican deputy Henri Guaino, who is convinced that the carnage in Nice could have been avoided, because, as he stated on RTL radio, “you just needed a soldier with a rocket-launcher stationed at the entrance to the Promenade des Anglais, who could stop the lorry”. As for Frédéric Lefebvre, of the same political party, he is in favour of the establishment of an “état de siège", last set up in France in 1939. The Centre-Right Republican deputy for Yvelines, Jacques Myard, has put forward eight proposals, advocating “deporting all dual-nationals who are at risk of radicalisation” and “enforcing the ban on the wearing of the veil throughout the French territory”. A supporter of President Assad, he also advocates “renewing diplomatic relations” with the bloodthirsty Damascus regime, in order to “gain information” in the struggle against the so-called Islamic State. For his part, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, president of France Arise (Debout la France, DLF) deemed the state of emergency was “necessary” but considers that it “is no longer sufficient”. The lawyer Arno Klarsfeld believes that “some of the Left have criticised Estrosi, the former mayor of Nice, for wanting to put video-cameras on the streets”: have these prevented anything at all? The Right is very willing to forget that the reform of intelligence sought by Nicolas Sarkozy against a background of declining resources has led to its disruption, with dramatic results, such as the Merah affair.

Alain Juppé, favourite candidate in the first round internal elections of the Right has the same approach with his tirade on security “ if all resources had been used”, the attack in Nice “would not have happened”, he thinks. This when we already know that there were no files at all on the author of the carnage in Nice. “It is virtually impossible to arrest in advance an individual who takes a lorry and drives into a crowd of people,” remarked the Socialist Party deputy Sébastien Pietrasanta, spokesperson for the inquiry committee on the events at Bataclan stadium. The extension of the state of emergency and the maintenance of the military Operation Sentinelle, announced on Friday by President Hollande after the attack in Nice, demonstrates the “impotence” of the government in the face of the jihadist threat, said the president of this inquiry committee on the attacks of 2015, the Republican deputy Georges Fenech.

The state of emergency has not dried up the reservoir of jihadists

The real effectiveness of the state of emergency which has been in force since last November, has been strongly called into question as the only, or virtually only, political response to the terrorist threat. A few hours after having confirmed the lifting at the end of the month of the measures which allow police raids and house arrest, in his 14th July national address, the head of state Hollande was obliged to back-pedal after the news of the carnage which happened on the Promenade des Anglais. The extension of the measures will be examined next week in a meeting of the ministers, and then in parliament. The law on penal procedure published in June must take over from the state of emergency by extending in particular the possibilities of monitoring and house arrest of individuals suspected of terrorism. “Unfortunately, it would seem that the state of emergency is not enough to prevent yesterday’s tragedy’”, said the national secretary of the Europe Ecology-the Greens (EELV), David Cormand. In the same vein, the Human Rights League (La Ligue des droits de l’Homme) denounced the “communications effect”: “The state of emergency is really made to cope with an emergency (…) it is not a system made to be set up for the medium term”. According to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, between November 2015 and April 2016, some 3500 raids took place as part of the state of emergency, leading to 400 arrests, of which it is difficult to distinguish those linked with terrorism from delinquency. But according to the Socialist Party deputy Sébastien Pietrasanta, spokesperson for the inquiry committee, although the raids and house arrests may have had an initial effect, this now “seems to have tapered off rapidly”. The state of emergency has not dried up the reservoir of jihadists.

At the moment, the government’s response is purely functional. François Hollande has declared three days of national mourning until Monday, after a select defence committee meeting, having announced overnight on Thursday “an escalation of aerial strikes in Irak and Syria” against Daech. Manuel Valls whose authoritative reply is his political trademark, took the upper hand to underline how much “terrorism, and we have been saying this for a long time, is a threat that has a significant impact on France, and will do so for a long time to come”. We should take note of a situation summed up in this way at the time of the Brussels attacks by the Middle-East historian Pierre-Jean Luizard who spoke of a “ lack of identity in many of the poor suburbs of France and Belgium” so that “many young people who feel they belong neither here nor elsewhere, find a solution to the pain of loss of identity in suicide missions for so-called Islamic State”. For another specialist, Gilles Kepel, “ the mindset of this terrorism has still not been understood by the political powers, whatever happens (…) we cannot say we are going to call in the reserves, everyone knows that the army and the police reserves are exhausted. And what’s more this is the aim of the tracts put online since 2005 by this third generation jihadism: we must exhaust the forces of order and make it so that society, which is completely disorientated, braces itself for civil war between groups of different faiths”. Result: society collapses into a general state of mistrust, verging on civil war: just what the Islamic terrorists want.

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