This week’s spate of ‘terror’ attacks in France have been timed a little too suspiciously, argues Pam Barker
Pam Barker | Director of the TLB Europe Reloaded Project
It’s been an exceptionally busy four days in France if you’re into terror-watching.
Starting this past Thursday morning, a package was delivered to the IMF offices in Paris that exploded upon opening, inflicting injuries to the hands and face of a staff member. Then it emerged that a parcel bomb had been received at the offices of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin the day before, which had been intercepted before any harm was done.
Responsibility for the Berlin parcel was claimed by the Greek radical anarchist group Conspiracy of Cells of Fire. No-one has claimed responsibility for the second according to Bloomberg although the BBC reported that it, too, had been sent from Greece.
The far-left organization has been classified as a terrorist group by the US State Department and Europol, Europe’s law enforcement agency, and has a history of sending such devices to other European targets, notably in 2010.
The parcel on Thursday was intended for an IMF veteran, European representative Jeffrey Franks according to the Independent although a Greek media outlet claims Poul Thomsen, the IMF’s director of its European Department, was the intended target.
Thus there seems to be a Greek connection to both incidents, the targets of which are directly related to the severe economic and social harm that has been deliberately inflicted on Greece over the last few years in the name of economic ‘austerity’ by Germany, the IMF and the ECB.
François Hollande immediately labelled the explosion at the IMF offices an ‘attack’ which some in the media are rewording as ‘terrorist attack’. Language matters.
But the drama didn’t stop there. A totally different event, happening just a few hours later on Thursday, was the shooting of a school principal and three others by a high school student in Grasse, southern France. The student, Kylian Barbey – evidently of Caucasian ethnicity – was apparently obsessed with shootings and other acts of violence, and is the son of the far-right French nationalist politician Franck Barbey. The Daily Mail report claims that Franck Barbey’s colleagues normally support strong French presidential contender Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National party, but Barbey is supporting moderate right candidate François Fillon this time around in the elections starting April 23. Is the link to right-wing presidential candidates pertinent?
While the attack is not believed to be terror-related, the student’s cache of arms he was carrying – a rifle of some sort (for hunting? an AK47?), two handguns and two grenades – is naturally raising questions in the French media about how and where they were obtained.
Then yesterday morning saw an early morning attack at Orly airport to the south of Paris, in which a 39 year old assailant, quickly identified in the media as Ziyed Belgacem, a ‘radicalised Muslim’ and ISIS militant, tried to grab the assault rifle of a female member of a three-person military patrol. (These patrols are now a typical phenomenon around Paris landmarks.) He was promptly shot and killed by the two other soldiers.
The drama had started earlier around 7am when Belgacem was stopped in a north east suburb outside of Paris for speeding. He then shot at one of the police officers and fled in his vehicle, hijacking another car along the way before reaching Orly.
This suspect apparently had a very extensive criminal record having spent time in jail around 2011-2012 and was well-known to the authorities. Oh, and he took his ID with him to perpetrate an attack in which his chances of getting killed were extremely high. Where have we heard this before?
Ongoing States of Emergency
On the face of it, we have the perfect conditions for continuing the French state of emergency although no official announcement about it has yet been made. France had the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Kasher attacks in January 2015, the Bataclan theatre-and-cafe shootings in November of the same year, which triggered the first state of emergency, then the Nice truck bombing last July, which was used to continue it. Although there have been other apparently terror-related murders, it’s these major events that have given rise to the continuous state of emergency we’ve been living under, much to the alarm of the UN and civil liberties groups.
The current state of emergency, extended to July 15, was designed to embrace the period of the presidential elections in April/May and the parliamentary elections in June, deemed to be a high-risk period for terrorist attacks.
To refresh our memories, states-of-emergency conditions here permit the authorities to conduct warrantless searches of citizens’ homes (exempting journalists, lawyers and politicians for some reason); to detain them in their homes without trial; to use electronic tagging devices on such people; and to prevent them from meeting others deemed a threat even if they are free to leave their homes. Group demonstrations believed to be a threat to public order can be banned, groups inciting threats can be dissolved, and websites judged to incite ‘acts of terrorism’ can be blocked. Of course, what the government deems threatening can be alarmingly ordinary, what the effectiveness of such power is may be disturbingly small (emphasis added):
It’s fair to wonder if the French government has become addicted to its emergency powers. What’s clear is that the warrantless searches permitted by the legislation have proved both invasive and ineffective: Of the nearly 4,000 administrative searches that have been undertaken since November, only 7 percent have led to court proceedings. No less alarming have been the government’s efforts to use its enhanced powers not only against suspected terrorist cells, but also against individuals and groups protesting various environmental and political measures. (The most recent example was the ill-fated effort last month to force the cancellation of a protest against proposed legislation to give employers greater freedom to fire and hire workers.) As the prominent Socialist politician Dominique Raimbourg said in May during the previous parliamentary debate about extending the legislation, France has been “evolving from a state of emergency aimed at fighting terrorism to a state of emergency aimed at maintaining public order.” – Robert Zaretsky
BFMTV last night ran the headline, “Etat d’urgence: débat clos?” (State of emergency, is the debate closed?) The failure of logic is astonishing here: if terror events persist despite the state of emergency powers in place, then likely they are not working. And France is just the kind of country to support a heavy-handed authoritarian approach.
It’s a messy picture to say the least. It’s not obvious how three very different types of ‘terror’ events are linked, but the veritable wave of them in such a short space is very suspicious. (We’ve been here at least twice before.) So, too, is the timing within the political election landscape here.
Dutch and French Elections
Wednesday, of course, saw the Dutch national elections take place in which Geert Wilders, the highly outspoken, iconic, anti-migrant politician, failed to win a large number of seats against incumbent prime minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right party. Much to the mainstream media’s delight. But that was how the Establishment chose to interpret it. In fact, the pro-EU Labour party received a trouncing, and the distribution of seats showed a more favorable response by the public to eurosceptic parties generally, leading some commentators to view the election as a victory for populist anti-EU sentiment. But then our attention in France was quickly drawn away from this to a quick succession of diverse terrorist attacks. The Dutch election results have had no time to penetrate our media reporting here nor merit barely a mention, far less a full-dress analysis of what it means for anti-globalist, anti-establishment parties.
In France, campaigning for the presidential elections, the first round of which will take place on April 23, has been well underway for some time. That is to say, we are exactly and only 5 weeks away from the first round. It is hard not to see the events of the past few days as somehow related to both the Dutch and French elections – specifically, to eclipse one and influence the other.
Marine Le Pen, anti-EU, anti-globalist candidate – France’s equivalent to Trump – campaigning on a traditional law-and-order platform, came out swinging against the government’s apparently lax security yesterday at a campaign meeting just hours after the shooting at Orly. She is probably the candidate most able to capitalize on these events in terms of campaign themes. However, that’s too logical: it supposes such a message will resonate with those who don’t already hold her views. And if these are false flag events, designed to manipulate the public in some other way, then it will be an Establishment candidate and not Marine Le Pen who will be the intended beneficiary of such scheming.
At the risk of being highly impressionistic, it’s as if the attacks may serve to induce a fear-based reversion-to-the-safe-option type of psychological response where another state of emergency is readily accepted by the public, where people feel in their gut that the known, familiar political choices are the best bet to stay the course and not rock the political boat.
Voter psychology is what is being appealed to here. It will be interesting to see how the globalist, Rothschild candidate Emmanuel Macron incorporates these events into his campaigning.
At any rate, five weeks means we still have a way to go.
About the author
Pam Barker is the Director of the TLB Europe Reloaded Project, based in France. She has an extensive background in the educational systems of several countries at the college and university level as an instructor and administrator.