The terrorist attack perpetrated in Paris on Friday night was shocking. Also shocking, however, was the speed in which Republicans and conservatives made ugly public statements to score political points. For example, a number of the Republican presidential candidates, not surprisingly, blamed President Obama. Donald Trump, doubling down on a statement he made last January after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, said the problem was too many gun laws in France. Ann Coulter tweeted that “Donald Trump was elected tonight.” Coulter explained in other tweets that Trump’s anti-immigration policies for America somehow would prevent the type of terrorist attack that occurred in Paris. Newt Gingrich, like Trump, suggested that the Paris attacks could have been thwarted by “10 to 15 citizens with concealed carry permits.” And conservative writer Judith Miller (who is infamous for cheerleading George W. Bush‘s Iraq War in the New York Times) almost incoherently tried to use the Paris attack to argue why black American college students should have no problem with racial discrimination against them.
French officials and supporters, however, were having none of this nonsense. The French Ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, responding to Donald Trump’s original January tweet which Trump had echoed again on Saturday, called Trump a “vulture.” France 24 reporter Mark Owen said of Newt Gingrich:
So he’s using this atrocity to make his point about people should be able to carry guns basically…. It’s funny how people will very distastefully use this kind of situation to express their own particular political hobby horse. Newt Gingrich, shame on you.
Perhaps these critics of Republican statements about Paris remember well how badly the French were attacked and ridiculed by Republicans after refusing to go along with George W. Bush‘s Iraq War (a decision by France that turned out to be wholly correct). The GOP’s over-the-top statements and actions before and during the Iraq War run-up ranged from absurdly renaming French fries and French toast in the House cafeteria as “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast,” to France-bashing by the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, to saying that U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry “looks French.” This followed a similar reaction to France’s refusal in 1986 to allow the U.S. under President Ronald Reagan to use French air space to attack Libya in response to a Libyan-backed terrorist attack at a Berlin discotheque.
Moreover, to the extent that the Paris attack is attributable to or inspired by ISIS, as appears to be the case, ISIS is essentially a George W. Bush creation. ISIS was formed after Bush (1) invaded Iraq and (2) disbanded the Iraqi Army because its Baath Party soldiers and officers were loyal to Saddam Hussein. Many of those whose livelihood was suddenly taken away, with plenty of military training to boot, became radicalized and formed the core of ISIS leadership.
Thus, the Republican statements on Friday night and during the weekend can be seen not as a sudden turnaround in feelings toward France, but rather as a cynical, desperate attempt to score political points against President Obama and the Democrats. The world is watching indeed.
Image by Daniel Voyager, used under Creative Commons license. http://is.gd/iBkFgW