July 16, 2016

The French have a saying, ‘un malheur n’arrive jamais seul.’ That translates into ‘when it rains, it pours.’ This week, the heavens opened and poured on the nation’s national fete, Bastille Day.

The day began with highly embarrassing revelations by a French satirical newspaper that the unpopular president, Francois Hollande, had a staff hairdresser making $11,000 a month at a time of national austerity. This was a genuine ‘let them eat cake’ moment.

That same evening, a frightful attack occurred in Nice. A demented 31-year old man of Tunisian origin, Mohammed Bouhel, who had just lost his job and then his family through divorce, turned his truck into a mass murder weapon.

Bouhel sent his large truck down Nice’s famed seaside Promenade des Anglais, mowing down people celebrating Bastille Day. As of this writing, 86 victims died and scores are gravely injured, including many children. France reeled in horror.

With exquisite bad timing, President Hollande had just that day ended the state of emergency that was imposed after the November 2015 Paris massacre. He quickly reimposed it for another three months and brought France to near war footing by summoning military, police and security service reserves.

All that evening, so-called ‘terrorism’ experts had been droning on about how the attack was almost certainly ‘terrorism’ and the work of the Islamic State. In the US, the odious Newt Gingrich, who has been financed by ultra-Zionist casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, actually demanded that all Muslims, including US citizens, be tested by the authorities. If they admit to believing in the basic tenets of Islamic law known as Sharia, they must be deported asserted Gingrich, who is better known for abandoning his dying wife than as an expert on Islamic law.

A chorus of other uninformed Republicans raised their voices, including Fox News which called for a ‘world war’ against Muslims and urged the US to invade Syria. Republican anti-Muslim hysteria will be sure to rise in coming days. Donald Trump beat the war drums and growled that the US must take action. He just named ultra-conservative Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate who is notoriously anti-abortion and anti-Muslim.

But after all the bombast and hot air, it turned out that the crime in Nice was the product of a domestic crisis and one man’s suicidal impulses, rather like the three pilots who dove their aircraft into the ocean.

But one must ask, why has France been so often a target of attacks, both by Islamic Jihad and lone wolf gunmen? The answer is complex.

First, France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, over 5 million people, the legacy of France’s long colonial rule over large parts of Africa, Syria and Lebanon. Many are of North African origin, like the truck driver in Nice. They are mostly third class citizens, living in poverty and suffering sharp discrimination.

The jobless rate among young Muslims is around 50%. They live in bleak housing projects like many Americans of African origin, with no future except for drugs and other petty crimes. In short, a potentially explosive underclass that is neither French nor traditionally ‘old country’ Muslim but a rootless urban class of delinquents and petty hoodlums

Second, France has been getting ever more deeply involved militarily and politically in its former colonies. French military forces are fighting in Iraq and Syria, and in Libya, where they helped overthrow and kill Muammar Khadaffi. France has 2,500 troops battling rebels in Mali, and more troops in Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti and Nigeria. French intelligence is active all over these regions and, notably, Lebanon.

In 1992, France worked with right-wing Algerian generals to overthrow and crush the newly elected democratic Islamist government in Algiers. This act triggered the bloody Algerian civil war that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in an orgy of killing and torture.

The Algerian rebels, known as the GIA, were eventually crushed with French help, but not before they spread into Europe and influenced the younger generation of violent rebels, the Islamic State.

France’s government is in a mini-war with various militant groups who adopt the language of Islam but have little to do with traditional Islam. All these factors combined in one truck driver last Thursday night in Nice.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2016

This post is in: France


  1. From the AP…
    “The truck driver who killed 84 people on a Nice beachfront had accomplices and appears to have been plotting his attack for months, the Paris prosecutor said Thursday.

    Prosecutor Francois Molins said five suspects currently in custody are facing preliminary terrorism charges for their alleged roles in helping 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel in the July 14 attack in the southern French city. Molins’ office, which oversees terrorism investigations, opened a judicial inquiry Thursday into a battery of charges for the suspects, including complicity to murder and possessing weapons tied to a terrorist enterprise.

    The suspects are four men — two Franco-Tunisians, a Tunisian and an Albanian — and one woman of dual French-Albanian nationality, Molins said. The driver was a Tunisian man who had been living in Nice for several years.”
    He may have been a ‘nut case’, but, he was also a premeditated terrorist, it would appear.

  2. Diamondsam says:

    Eric. You’re wrong. The state of Emergency was to be lifted on July 26th. It was incorrect reporting to say that President Hollande had just ended it. As for Sharia, only a radical Islamist would defend this barbaric practice from ancient times. Sharia has no business in modern day Western society where we have a much more inclusive and accepting culture. Gay rights, equality for women just to name a few. We don’t practice genital mutilation on girls nor ban women from leaving the house. Ya… So opine all you want regarding Newt Gingrich, he is o this account 100% right. We as a society need to move forward, not backwards in accepting a barbaric 1st century practice as the norm. For those who don’t like it, can move back to the mess in the Mideast that they came from.

    • On July 14, 2016, Hollande announced that he would lift the state of emergency on July 26, 2016. After the attack it was extended for 6 months.
      I remember the line from Monty Python, “…she turned me into a newt, … but, I got better” Newt will not get better…
      I concur that Sharia Law has no place in our Western Society, but, I have no idea of how to put the imp back in the bottle. The Sharia Law ‘test’ will not solve the problem.


  3. a.barak says:

    This is what I call real journalism. I have been reading Mr. Margolis’ articles since 2001. They have always been fantastic but there is a big problem with his articles. In these articles, Mr. Margolis tells the truth and that is a big problem in North America. Politicians, security apparatus and the media do not like to tell and hear the solid truth. They like it only when it serves the status quo. I know most people do not want to hear things like what is said in the above article but Mr. Margolis please keep them coming till there is some real change here.

  4. This is an astute observation; Francois Hollande, had a staff hairdresser making $11,000 a month at a time of national austerity. This was a genuine ‘let them eat cake’ moment.

    Like the Orlando and Dallas shooters, this man had weighty personal problems that obviously pushed him over the edge. There is no protection for society when it becomes so complex and convoluted, individuals like these latest terrorists, reach their breaking points.

  5. M Shannon says:

    “Mike Pence as his running mate who is notoriously anti-abortion…”

    How can being against abortion make one “notorious”? If you believed a fetus is a person it’s only reasonable to be strongly against abortion. That’s hardly something to be considered “notorious”.

    How does being against Sharia Law make one “notoriously anti-Muslim”? I don’t know what Spence actually believes but given the general anti-religious tenor of western society being against a given religion isn’t unusual at all.

  6. tgMolitor says:

    > In short, a potentially explosive underclass that is neither French nor traditionally ‘old country’ Muslim but a rootless urban class of delinquents and petty hoodlums.<

    Exactly, Eric. How many "political labels are put on groups" instead of addressing the economics of discontent?

  7. I am sure Francois Hollande must be utterly dancing and singing with joy over this. Had he not had the good fortune of the driver being a Muslim then he would have had no choice but to call the driver a lunatic and would not have been able to distract everyone from his hair dresser.

  8. Steve_M. says:

    Excellent column! So, Eric, with regards to your comments about Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich, do you still support Donald Trump or is he now starting to make you nervous?

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