This is not the first time that Paris has been hit by a quite dreadful act of terrorism and I doubt that it will be the last. For what purpose, other than to destroy the lives of so many innocent people and cause injury to so many others, that the various attacks that took place in a north east suburbs of Paris last evening will for the moment need to remain a matter of conjecture.
What we do know is that those who perpetrated this atrocity, one that killed at least 128 people and that injured and maimed as many as double that number are now also dead. What we do not know is why they chose to do what they did and who and how many others behind them remain. This terror attack will no doubt be seen by many as an act of politically or religiously induced violence. So it is both these great imposters but it was much more than that, it was more than just an act of senseless terrorism as the reality is surely that this was a horrific act of war.
Announcing a state of emergency last evening the French President, Francois Hollande told the French people with a voice of real compassion and genuine emotion that “we will lead the fight and it will be merciless”. He said that “when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities, they should be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France…a France that will not let itself be intimidated, even if today we are expressing endless emotion at this drama and this tragedy”. He also said that “this was an abomination because it was a barbaric act”. So it was and so it is that all of us in this nation today stand by France just as we know that France will always stand by us in the ongoing battle to purge acts of terrorism, to be steadfast and to never give up the battle for freedom.
We accept and respect the cultures, religions and political beliefs of others just as we should but we will never give up the right to ensure that we may all live in peace, stability and harmony with each other. We live in eternal hope. “Man is”, as Jean- Paul Sartre said, “condemned to be free” meaning that he alone is responsible for everything that he does. “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves” said Abraham Lincoln and that is surely as true today as it was when it was said over one hundred and fifty years ago.
President Hollande said this morning that the attacks by the eight gunmen in Paris last evening were coordinated and that they were organised from outside. He called them an act of war organised by the so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group. US President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have along with many others sent strong messages of support to the French people. It is wake-up call to all of us that our resolve must not be allowed to weaken.
The Vatican called the Paris atrocity “an attack on peace and humanity” and said that “a decisive, supportive response” was needed “on the part of all of us as we counter the spread of homicidal hatred in all its forms”. So it is and so it shall be. These are some of the strongest words that I can ever remember hearing from a head of the Roman Catholic faith but I doubt that they will sway or halt the stream of hatred that we see day after day emanating from IS.
The message that we must all redouble our efforts to destroy those who would see us destroyed and who would attack and attempt to destroy our way of life and freedom is I hope clear. What occurred in Paris last night and last year as well in the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ shootings, what had occurred in New York and Washington DC back in September 2001, in Madrid in 2004 and in so many other recollections that we all have of past acts of terrorist violence are an attempt to destroy and break down all that we have strived for in our attempts to maintain freedom for all.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said sixty years ago that “history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid”. I very much hope that a reminder of this message along with yet another said by the same former US President, “to be true to one’s own freedom is, in essence, to honor and respect the freedom of all others” is today brought home to those that would appear to believe that our own role in defeating terrorism should be merely as passive bystanders. Yes, Mr. Corbyn, I refer to you and others of your ilk who fail to realise the dangers and of what we need to do.
“Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things” said another former US President, Ronald Reagan and so it is. But above all else it is something that we should all cherish and fight hard to protect.
CHW (London – 14th November 2015)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS