“French youth has to get used to living with the threat of attacks for a long period of time. Your generation, your age class, must accustom itself to living with this danger for a number of years.”
--Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France to high school students
While leaders of most nations give their young people messages of hope, France’s socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls passed on one of hopelessness.
Only a couple of weeks after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and at time when the shaken people of France needed to be reassured, especially about the effectiveness of the state’s efforts to protect them, Valls admitted his socialist government is powerless to stop Islamist terrorist attacks. The occasion for this Churchillian moment was Valls’s appearance before an audience of high school students in Seine-et-Marne in late January.
“French youth will have to get used to living with the threat of attacks for a long period of time,” Valls said, apparently not recognizing the enormity of what he was saying. “Your generation, your age class must accustom itself to living with this danger for a number of years.”
As expected, Valls’s comments caused an uproar among law-abiding French citizens who, for some strange reason, deem it the job of the state to protect its citizens. Some immediately accused his government, as one observer put it, of preferring “to raise its hands in surrender rather than find a solution to the problem.” Others claim Valls’s pitiful admission of powerlessness completely destroys his personal credibility and that of his ruling Socialist Party (SP). Still others demanded his resignation, since the task of protecting French lives appears to have overwhelmed him.
“An admission of complete failure, a rare incompetence…and a terrible doubt about the capacities of the ruling government,” commented one reader in the French newspaper, Le Figaro.
What is even more upsetting about Valls’s surrender statement is that before assuming the prime minister’s office, he had been France’s interior minister. In this portfolio, his job was the nation’s security. Evidently, as his surrender statement suggests, he was also a failure in that post. The fact that the number of French Jews leaving the country for reasons of personal safety is doubling every year is further proof of that.
Incredibly, Valls cited before the student gathering another of his failures when interior minister as a reason why French youths will have to accustom themselves to terrorist attacks. In his school address, at which France’s education and agricultural ministers were also shamefully present, he mentioned “the threat” posed by returning French jihadists who had trained abroad and were determined to attack their own country.
“Me, I don’t want to hide anything concerning this threat. It exists and the teachers should know it,” Valls said in response to a question from a student.
But Valls’s bluntness concerning the terrorist threat is most likely due to the impossibility of continuing to deny or conceal its extent and deadliness after the Charlie Hebdo massacre than to any honest desire for openness. This was evident when Valls omitted to tell his young audience that, as interior minister and now as prime minister, he allowed this “threat” to grow to the point where their jihadist co-citizens and potential murderers now number about a thousand – officially (unofficially, the number of French citizens and residents who are fighting or have fought for jihadist organizations is estimated to be as high as nine thousand).
Just as noticeable was the fact that Valls neglected to mention any reasons for his failure to adopt the draconian measures necessary to prevent the return of these terrorists to French territory and to neutralize the terrorist threat within. It also goes without saying he did not claim any responsibility, either personally or on behalf of the Socialist Party, for the existence of this disgraceful situation.
Some believe political considerations played a part in Valls’s decision not to implement the harsh, but necessary, actions to establish security and the rule of law and order in France. The withdrawal of French citizenship from, and expulsion of, pro-jihad and other undesirable Islamist elements like the Salafists, for example, would probably alienate the growing Muslim vote the SP depends on at election time. France has Europe’s largest Muslim community at 6.5 million.
This catering to the Muslim vote is also the likely reason for the ruling SP’s pro-immigration policies besides an ideological commitment to multiculturalism. SP leader and French president Francois Hollande’s speech to residents of an immigrant ghetto before the 2012 election clearly indicates where his party believes its future political power base lies:
“Here is the new France, the one which is emerging, the one which is beginning, the one of the future. You the inhabitants, Islamic or not, of the housing projects, you are the future of France, you are the rising generation, the one which will save this country from ruin…”
And only two days before his appearance at the assembly, Valls likewise showed his bias for the inhabitants of the immigrant ghettos, indicting French society in the process, when he stated: “A geographic, social and ethnic apartheid has developed in our country. Social misery, added to daily discrimination…because someone doesn’t have the right family name, skin color, or because she is a woman.”
Now this was obviously something the French people really wanted to hear so soon after the murder of 17 people in Paris only two weeks earlier by Muslim jihadists!
French citizens concerned about their country’s security also place little hope in the conservative Union for a Popular Movement Party (UMP) to rectify the perilous situation, in which France now finds itself. It is one of the political parties that has alternated power with the socialists the last 40 years and is therefore viewed as equally responsible for the nation’s ruinous and wounded state. At a conference in 2008, attended by European and Arab leaders, to announce a new ‘Union of the Mediterranean’, then UMP leader and French president Nicolas Sarkozy made his own Hollande-like statement to journalists:
“The goal of this summit for the Mediterranean, of this Union for the Mediterranean, is that we learn to love each other instead of continuing to hate each other and wage war,” he said.
At the moment in France, rather than one of love and peace, the rosy future predicted by both Hollande and Sarkozy now appears to be very bleak and scary.
It was also the “conservative” Sarkozy who, in 2006 before he became president, came out strongly against private citizens arming themselves when this may now be their only hope for protection.
“Security is the responsibility of the state,” he said. “I am against militias. I am against the private ownership of firearms…The private ownership of firearms is dangerous,” Sarkozy stated. “…the answer is in the efficiency of the police and the efficiency of the judiciary process, the answer is not in having guns at home.”
It is too bad the Charlie Hebdo victims didn’t have any personal firearms at work that day. Their tragic story may have had a different ending.
While Valls has admitted the state can no longer guarantee its citizens’ security against terrorism, some believe the danger has escalated beyond that. They view the Islamist terrorist threat as now being larger than just a police and court matter and approaching more a state of war. In this scenario, policemen, like the two tragically killed in the Charlie Hebdo massacre, will be hard-pressed to just to protect themselves. The fact the French government had to order out 10,000 troops after the massacre to protect potential terrorist targets, especially Jewish ones, only reinforces this view.
And even combat-trained soldiers armed with modern assault rifles are not safe, as three were attacked outside a Jewish community center in Nice in early February by a jihadist armed with a knife. Two men were arrested in that incident. The attacker had just been expelled from Turkey, apparently upon the request of French intelligence, where he had flown with a one-way ticket. He was questioned upon his return but was not immediately charged.
More than one commentator stated Valls’s words to the students were not worthy of a French prime minister. Rather than speaking to French youth of a bright future and of glorious opportunities, offering the young hope, he indicated they might be killed, which is scandalous. It is almost as if France has become a third world country like Pakistan or Nigeria where terrorism-related killings are routine. Worse, Valls had no solution to offer the students, no grand vision, not even bullet-proof vests. It was a lamentable display of a lack of courage and fatalism.
French patriots say it is fortunate that Valls did not live in France during the Second World War, since he would have told the country to get used to the Nazi occupation rather than fight against it with all available means, as some French heroically did in the Resistance. In fact, such patriots consider Valls’s behavior an insult to the Resistance fighters and to those who fought in the Free French forces.
These anti-Nazi partisans of the marquis would also have a much different message for France’s youth today than Valls’s. They would tell the young never to give up, that all efforts would be directed towards destroying the Islamist enemy and to defending the country.
Ironically, in one respect the SP has helped France become like Israel, a country many French socialists wholeheartedly dislike. In Israel, young people also have to accustom themselves to living with the possibility of terrorist attacks. But unlike in Israel, French youth have to accustom themselves to living with a spineless leadership as well.
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