“Now is more frightening than in January. Anybody can be a target”
Romain Edieux, citizen of Paris to BNR News Radio [name can be written incorrectly - EL]
Friday, November 13th seemed to be a Friday like any other. Many Europeans were relaxing at home after another week of hard work and other people were inhabiting the numerous restaurants, sports venues and theaters all over Europe.
In the French capital Paris, however, the Friday was destined to be totally different, alas. For the second time in 2015, the city came under lethal fire of several terrorist attacks.
Murderous gangs with representatives from (allegedly) Islamic State started a killing spree at seven different spots in Paris, among which restaurants and pubs, the football stadium “Stade de France” and music theater “Le Bataclan”. Especially the attack at Le Bataclan became a gruesome massacre, with approximately 100 fatalities and numerous other seriously wounded victims, of which still many are fighting for their lives.
The whole attack breathed the former ‘Al Qaida’ signature of having synchronized and closely cooperating, but yet independent cells of fighters, who created as much havoc as possible at various spots within their target zone. Probably, this Al Qaida signature of attacks has been adopted by Islamic State, since their rise to notoriety.
Like Paris’ citizen Romain Edieux stated in his somewhat cynical, but nevertheless spot-on analysis to Dutch newsradio station BNR:
‘January [ the attacks at the editors of Charlie Hebdo and several Jewish targets in Paris – EL] was also a big shock for us of course, but then the attackers seemed to have a motive. Yesterday was a bigger and more frightening event than in January. Anybody could become a target’.
What made these attacks particularly frightening for Europeans, was how unsophisticated, low profile and randomly targeted these attacks seemingly were...
The terrible 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington showed a clear hi-tech approach and had probably taken years of preparation. Besides that, although many innocent citizens perished in these disgusting attacks – especially in New York – they were highly symbolical in nature and aimed at the most blatant symbols of American power and invincibility: the White House (probably) and the Pentagon in Washington, as well as the Twin Towers in New York.
Even the gruesome attacks in Madrid (March 11, 2004) and London (July 7, 2005), although much more randomly aimed against common commuters and therefore even more frightening than the New York attacks, were by itself quite sophisticated and demanded a non-common knowledge of the creation of small, but nevertheless extremely lethal explosive devices.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks (7 & 8 January, 2015) were also very low-tech like yesterday’s attacks, but had more clearly recognizable targets and were therefore not so frightening to the common Parisien, as French citizen Romain Edieux stated so bluntly.
To these eyes, the November 13th attacks were not only very low profile, but they seemed to be totally randomly targeted. Yesterday evening, it was suddenly as if every brainwashed idiot, with a (religiously/politically inspired) vision and massive resentment against the French society or the West as a whole, could grab a Kalashnikov machine gun and a few relatively easy-to-acquire hand grenades or IED’s (i.e. improvised explosive devices) and start his own private war against randomly targeted citizens, with numerous casualties as a result: the perfect, asynchronous war against the West and Western values.
Of course there was a masterplan behind it, but it was probably a fairly simple one, which could be executed at any minute without much preparation. This was as close to “every neighbour could become one’s enemy” as one could get. And that is a very frightening concept, to be honest.
This particular fact makes it also quite hard to see these November 13th attacks as a ‘one-off’, which 9/11 obviously was; albeit due to the fact that it would be virtually impossible to hijack new airplanes in the days or months after these attacks had taken place.
“Paris”, however, could be repeated at will: every day and in every European city of choice. The structure of Western societies with their open borders, their hi-tech electronic infrastructure and their total freedom of movement and assembly are almost impossible to defend against these kinds of attacks; for the simple reason that you can’t lock up any person with radical views at will and without a formal complaint.
What will happen unfortunately, in my humble opinion, is that the already rising distrust and resentment between large parts of the population in Europe will further increase and that as a consequence tensions will mount further in European societies.
Especially the compassion, patience and hospitality towards refugees from the Middle East and Africa might dramatically suffer from these attacks, as some citizens might see some of those refugees as a ‘fifth column’ for the warriors of IS in Syria and Iraq. Even more as rumours have been spread recently that IS has sent warriors to Europe through Turkey and/or refugee boats from Libya. Rumours that have neither been confirmed nor denied.
What scares me – and probably many other people – most is that these attacks might be the first leg of a real asymmetric, religiously motivated war between common European citizens and (sympathizers of) Islamic State – or other religious/political splinter groups – in Europe and the Middle East: a war, which is so low-tech that it is virtually impossible to defend citizens in an open society against it, for the aforementioned reasons.
Like always, there will be people (i.e. the ‘tinfoil hat’ brigade) who will see these attacks as a ‘false flag’ operation of obscure semi-governmental organizations and/or power groups in the European society. These people see the whole world as one giant conspiracy and see danger lurking behind every corner.
And others will demand drastical measures against the open societies and open borders of the EU nations, as well as against large groups of minorities in these European societies. However, those measures will make an effective end to everything for which the EU, Europe and the European nations stand, as beacons of freedom, openness, friendship and cooperation. That would be the end of Europe as a concept.
What should therefore happen, according to me, is that the military and civic Secret Services, as well as Criminal Investigation Departments in all European countries, will regain their indispensable role as ‘society protectors of last resort’.
This should not per sé be carried out by increasing their practices of eavesdropping and ubiquitous online tracking of losely targeted groups of suspects and private citizens.
Nowadays, there is already a massive amount of eavesdropping going on, as Edward Snowdon has showed during the last few years. If the Paris attacks have proven one thing, it is that these now common practices of Secret Services all over Europe are eventually unable to prevent such attacks from happening.
In my opinion, the only real answer could be the infiltration of secret agents and cops in dangerous splinter groups all over Europe. This is of course very dangerous and ungrateful work, as doing a great job for these agents means that nothing will happen and virtually all of their work will remain invisible for the general public.
However, European society cannot rest on its laurels when it wants to keep its open, compassionate and hospitable atmosphere; I am simply too afraid that more of such low-profile and low-tech attacks might follow in months and years to come, when nothing changes.
France, the EU and Europe must act and they must do so very quickly: not by targeting already less popular groups in European society and by further reducing the rights of common citizens among such minories.
No, Europe must find such groups of extremely dangerous radicals the hard way, by finding, infiltrating and arresting such people. Like ‘we’ did in the Seventies and Eighties of last Century with the Rote Armee Fraktion (Germany), the Brigate Rosse (Italy), IRA (United Kingdom) and the ETA (Spain)...
While writing this article I am very much aware that I use the word ‘war’. This is a word that is often abused – since the days of president Richard Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’ – and by itself quite hyperbolic in nature, when there is not a ‘real’ declared war going on.
In this ‘Paris’ case, it is an undeclared war of a yet unidentified group of people with infiltrators all over Europe for reasons unknown; a group of people who don’t scare away from targeting common citizens at common places in one of the largest and most beloved cities of Europe. And that is a terrible, yet undeniable truth!