The simplest surrealist act consists of going down
into the street, pistol clenched, and firing randomly,
as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.
Anyone who, at least once in his life, has not wanted
to so put an end to the petty system of debasement
and cretinisation in power has a designated place
in that crowd, with his belly at barrel level.*
-- André Breton, French surrealist leader, 1930 --
"The Inspector Who Got It Right."
There should -- and could -- be more like him.
Circa 1996, the French police captured a terrorist. They needed him to talk -- and quickly; he knew about attacks that were being prepared.
He refused and refused. The only thing he said: "I am a soldier of Islam."
What happened next went something like this.
Enter a new inspector. Hour after hour, the terrorist stayed on his broken record. "I am a soldier of Islam; I am a soldier of Islam."
The inspector looked at his watch. Time was running out.
"You´re no soldier," he asserted: "You´re a common criminal. A murderer."
"Wrong!! How do you dare say I am not a soldier?"
"Simple. A soldier gives a full report at the end of the day -- where he was; what he did; what he saw; who he was with."
Whereupon the terrorist burst into a complete, nonstop report.
The inspector sensed something. In a flash, he cut through all the
malarkey, errors, confusion:
The terrorist was a terrorist not for political or religious reasons -- certainly not because he was an avowed Muslim -- or because he was crazy or underprivileged.
At stake was the terrorist´s self-identity: who he was.
I have great respect for the French inspector´s intuition. In a way, his hunch was to be expected ...
France is far and away the world leader in articulating middle class rebellion, the source of terrorism. Arthur Rimbaud, Comte de Lautréamont, André Breton, Charles Baudelaire, Marcel Duchamp, Alfred Jarry, André Masson: to this day, those artists´ lives, creations and insights into middle class rebellion are unsurpassed.
Why, then, did the former medical student and surrealist leader André Breton recommend grabbing a pistol and go firing randomly into a crowd? Why did he think -- more importantly feel -- that way? Start with those questions if you want to know why Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel mowed down 84 people in Nice.
I spent over 30 years researching Breton and other middle class rebels for The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion. My hypothesis when I started out is now a conviction. When it comes to understanding terrorism, not to understand those men is to understand nothing: zero. Nix. Null. Nada. Rien. Ничтo. لا شى. 没什么.
99.9% of FBI, CIA agents and other members of the American intelligence community who don´t know Rimbaud from Rambo: take note.
Our 2014 three-part series, "New Perspectives on Terrorism," summarized points made in The Source of Terrorism. That series continues to receive thousands of visitors from around the world. Most are from France. (July 26, 2016: Paris, Lille, Toulouse, Gravelines, Rennes, Orleans, Reims, Alfortville, Beauvais, Aix-les-Bains, Villeparisis, Saint-Ouen, Rochefort -- bienvenue à vous tous).
"Idle curiosity!" the Washington establishment will shout, and wave its peremptory hand. Ah...sorry, gentlemen -- there´s no such thing. Curiosity and cure have the same root.
I don´t doubt that there are more people like the inspector in the French government. They are quietly -- but urgently -- searching for a practical method to identify terrorists.
That method exists.
To find it, however, requires a new perspective. Although we still have vast differences, on that fundamental point the French government -- unlike Washington -- and this blog are starting to converge...
Following the Normandy attack, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared it was "morally and juridically unacceptable" to lock up every terrorist suspect. "However, we have changed epochs. We should change our behavior. We must undertake an authentic revolution in our culture of security."**
Authentic revolution = a change of, not in, the prevailing system of analyzing and fighting terrorism. To date, no American official has come close to expressing anything resembling what Valls said.
In its search for radically new ways of seeing and doing things, France is on the right track. Most importantly, French security forces are starting to realize that the legions of lawyers and lobbyists, CIA and FBI agents, and Beltway Bandit consultants descending on their country from Washington are what they are: excellent time wasters. I am excluding from consideration American technological assistance which is substantial.
In France´s case, a lot more than a frigid intellectual knowledge of and cultural familiarity with middle class rebellion is involved. In that nation the terrorist problem is palpable and pressing. It is also economically devastating: as I write these words, because of the fall in tourism since the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in January 2015, France is undergoing an "industrial disaster."
Terrorism is not new in France. Unlike America, terrorist attacks in that nation began over two centuries ago.
Carl Jung observed "there is no coming to consciousness without pain."*** Unfortunately, pain is no guarantee of consciousness. If it were, the United States with 2,996 killed and over 6,000 injured on 9/11 -- the biggest terrorist attack in history -- would be the most insightful nation on earth about terrorism. To date, not a single American inspector who got it right has stepped forward.
84 dead innocent victims in Nice and 134 in Paris bare silent testimony to a sordid reality. The prevailing Washington pensée unique -- one-track thinking -- about terrorism is costly not only in money.
* * *
The inspector who got it right was all the more remarkable given the milieu in which he was working.
Five times, French authorities had their hands on Nice terrorist attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel for petty crimes, but let him go.
He wasn´t the first or the last terrorist to slip through their fingers.
Salah Abdeslam was a petty thief and one of the 10 perpetrators of the ISIS attacks on Paris on November 13, 2015. The following morning, two companions drove him back to Belgium. On the way they were stopped three times by Belgian and French police who noted the criminal record of one of the car occupants. However, they let the men go because they were not on any wanted list. We will have more to say shortly about this shocking case of governmental ignorance of terrorism and concomitant official nonfeasance.
In less than two weeks, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel lost his status as the last terrorist let go by French authorities. On July 26, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean cut the throat of Father Jacques Hamel, a Catholic priest in Normandy. Kermiche had been under police surveillance and was under house arrest; he was even wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet when he murdered Father Hamel. Petitjean had also been identified by the police as a terrorist suspect.
When it comes to catching and releasing terrorists, France is the rule, not the exception. This blog has documented case after case of the on-going inability of American authorities to spot a terrorist sitting two feet in front of them. The prototype: Dr. Humam Habil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi was a middle class Jordanian terrorist who wormed his way into CIA agents´ confidence, took advantage of their gullibility and conducted the most devastating attack against the agency in 25 years.
Something is wrong.
* * *
What is missing to effectively identify terrorists?
What is needed to lift Prime Minister Valls´ "authentic revolution" out of the realm of hollow phraseology and make it reality?
Answer: creative indicators.
For readers without a social science background, I will define a creative indicator by way of example.
The following discussion of how to identify a Drug Kingpin comes from The Source of Terrorism, p. 133:
One evening a top lobbyist for the American Wine Institute invited me to dinner at a fancy restaurant ... Gazing at the wine list, my attention was called to the sticker price of a French Burgundy: $400.
I asked him if the wine was worth it.
“No wine expert would pay $400 for a bottle of wine in a restaurant,” he solemnly pronounced.
That did not mean, however, that the restaurant was charging too much.
“If the FBI stationed agents in restaurants like this for a month or two, they would identify all the [big] local drug dealers. They’re the ones who are buying the stuff.”
In order to develop a creative indicator of something, you must know what that something is. That knowledge is manifested first and foremost in a clear, correct, logical, practical definition.
We showed elsewhere -- see our post "ISIS: Winston Churchill Speaks" of September 12, 2014 -- the United States Government has no reasonable, workable definition of terrorist. Because it literally does not know what it is talking about, it is unable to develop creative indicators.
Is France in the same boat?
The French Government´s definition of terrorism is here.
The French definition is simply too broad and abstract to accomplish what any useful definition does: make meaningful distinctions. We will give an example of one such distinction -- a singularly relevant one given the French historical experience -- in a moment.
Before continuing, a crucial question imposes itself.
Did the French Government deliberately make its definition ambiguous?
Because it is so unclear, the definition ends up being completely discretionary in its everyday application. What it comes down to: the police can define virtually anybody as a terrorist.
French officials may have borrowed a page from the playbook of their American colleagues who revel in ambiguity. Washington´s definitions of terrorist are so vague and unrealistic, you, dear reader, can easily end up on their terrorist watch list. You disagree? To see how it can happen, click here.
What lurks beneath the lack of clarity:
In an ambiguous situation, he who is in a POSITION to know has the power. In questions of terrorism, the police and security agencies occupy that position. It is in their self-interest, then, to produce and maintain ambiguous definitions.
To French officials who are reading these words and nodding and winking, all I can say is the additional power you obtain by amorphous definitions, laws and regulations comes at a truly prohibitive cost: a total inability to develop useful, creative indicators of terrorism.
Without those indicators, you are condemned to make the same errors and omissions over and over again. The suffering and death of your people will be ceaseless, senseless, needless.
Competence for power: terrorists sense the trade-off you are making, and proceed accordingly. We will return to this all-important subject which is the crux of the crisis of terrorism in France.
Returning to our main theme:
Here is the centerpiece of the French definition of terrorism:
Various acts, e.g., "thefts, extortions, destruction and deterioration," are "acts of terrorism when they intentionally, in an individual or group undertaking, have the goal of seriously disturbing the public order by intimidation or terror... "****
(i) The French definition has an outcome identical to that of American government definitions. As we showed in our post on Churchill, if you accept Washington´s definitions, Winston Churchill was a terrorist for bombing Dresden; Harry Truman, for the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
If you accept the French definition, terrorists include along with Churchill and Truman, teenage gangs such as The Jets and The Sharks in "West Side Story" and The Thunderbirds in "The Young Savages." Ditto Hell´s Angels, The Outlaws and other motorcycle clubs. Ditto Mexican drug cartels.
And ditto the French Resistance during World War II.
Given the all-encompassing nature of the French definition, anybody might be a terrorist. Therefore... You guessed it -- the rest follows inexorably.
(ii) The French definition exudes bureaucratic maneuvering and lazy wording.
The telltale heart is tautological reasoning. To a major degree, the conclusions are the assumptions; the assumptions, the conclusions.
Sidebar: I would pass over this subject were it not for the fact that tautological thinking is behind the bureau-pathic behavior that is at the heart of France´s terrorism crisis. More on this subject in a moment.
An example of a tautology: we learned above that terrorism has the goal of disturbing public order "by terror." Terror, in brief, is ... terror. We are sent from Pontius to Pilate.
As for lazy wording:
The definition says "intimidation or terror." "Intimation" makes the point; "or terror" is needless wording that, as we just saw, only creates confusion. Incidentally, the word "or" implies that intimidation and terror are two separate and distinct entities; in reality, terror always includes intimidation.
Second, we are told we are reading France´s definition of terrorism/-terrorist. Not really; instead, we are shown a discussion of terrorist acts. We still don´t know what terrorism is.
And third, to be meaningful the word "seriously" must be made serious -- that is to say, quantified, e.g., a terrorist act results in at least one death or injury requiring hospitalization. Otherwise, the word "seriously" only pretends to create a meaningful distinction, viz., acts which are seeking "non-serious" disturbances of the public order do not constitute terrorist acts. Do not be surprised if lawyers representing clients accused of terrorism grab that bit of confusion and run with it.
What is really involved: he who is in the POSITION to differentiate serious from non-serious has the power. No need to tell you who he is and that his differentiation will be entirely arbitrary -- for what else can it be?
(iii) The best thing about American social science methodology is that it insists on operationalizing terms.
If you want to talk about freedom, for example, you must at some point present freedom in the form of observable, preferably measurable indicators.
Freedom: what is it? The ability to travel from one city to another without government permission is one indicator of freedom.
Haplessly, instead of employing indicators, the French definition flies from one abstraction to another without touching tierra firme. To wit:
Terrorism, we are told, has as a basic reference point "public order," an abstraction of an even higher order. Order, national security, justice, organic food, middle class, sanity, equality, pornography: such terms seem clear-cut. Everybody knows what they mean -- or do they? On close scrutiny, what they are melts in the hand.
The most solid proof, however, that the French definition is too vague to be helpful is provided by that definition itself. It repeats and repeats and repeats itself over and over and over again with slight variations, as if by sheer inertia it could get its point across. Like a binomial theorem, it expands endlessly on itself. Do not ask for a final destination -- there isn´t any.
Behind the nullité sonore of meaningless repetition is a legion of bureaucrats who want us to give up and give in -- to accept their definition out of utter fatigue, boredom.
If you think a suitable definition of terrorist is a purely academic matter, you had better think again. Because the prevailing official definitions are incapable of making meaningful distinctions and forming practical indicators, thousands of innocent people are branded as terrorists while real terrorists like Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel are free to commit murder and mayhem.
* * *
Unlike the French and American government definitions, our definition of terrorist excludes Churchill and Truman.
Our post on Churchill explained why both leaders may have been morally right; they may have been morally wrong. They were not terrorists.
Our definition also excludes the French Resistance in World War II. Here, amazingly, the French definition comes up short...
As noted, the centerpiece of the French definition is that a terrorist act has the goal of "seriously disturbing public order by intimidation or terror." It includes under that heading:
(i) looking for, obtaining, fabricating objects that could harm others;
(ii) surveilling sites or people with the objective of harming them;
(iii) the fabrication or the utilization of explosive or incendiary material, as well as undergoing training in the use of weapons;
(iv) having documents that encourage or apologize for terrorist acts;
(v) spending time abroad in an area where terrorist groups operate.
The French Resistance engaged in all five actions against the French state apparatus under occupying Nazi Germany and their puppet Vichy Government. Between January and September of 1943 alone, the Resistance committed 530 acts of sabotage against the French railway system. Talk about intimidation: under those circumstances, you would think twice about taking a train trip. In 1943-44, it committed at least 150 acts of sabotage against French factories. As for surveillance of potential targets, in May of 1944 alone the Resistance sent 3,000 reports to the Allies that helped them prepare the Normandy Invasion. Regarding anti-government documents, the Resistance underground press printed over two million newspapers per month. Finally, Resistance members traveled to England for training, co-ordination and equipment.
Conclusion: according to the French definition, the French Resistance was terrorist.
Some readers will argue the five acts were not terrorist acts on the part of the Resistance because they were committed against the "bad guys." Those readers might want to read again the French definition: nowhere does it make that distinction. Public order is public order whether it is Nazi-imposed or democratically chosen.
Those readers, I hasten to add, are by no means alone:
At the end of the day, most people believe that the definition of terrorist is inherently political -- that everything depends on whose side you are on. An old maxim succinctly sums up that belief: One man´s terrorist is another man´s freedom fighter.
We will now show that adage reflects the same underdeveloped thinking characterizing the French and American governments.
Here is our definition:
"A terrorist is most often a middle class rebel (1) experiencing magnified marginal and/or transitional conditions, who (2) voluntarily (3) goes through certain rites of passage, among which are (4) clique membership and (5) a deliberate decision to commit a criminal act which is almost always (6) violent and usually (7) murder, in (8) the name of higher intentions or convictions without (9) retaining consciously the ambiguity of his criminal act and his higher intentions/convictions. He manifests powerful, unconscious, ambivalent emotions in two ways: (10) converting his intentions/convictions into idées fixes or absolute truths, the opposite extreme from ambiguity, and (11) wielding uncertainty as a weapon. That uncertainty is total, as demonstrated by the fact that (12) everybody -- allies, non-combatants, even himself -- is a potential victim.
A concluding note: it is the syndrome, the running together of components, which counts -- not components in isolation.
By not admitting what he cannot admit, the terrorist guards his secret, even from himself.
By not admitting what he is, the terrorist shows the gravity that admission holds for him. To my knowledge, no terrorist or other middle class rebel ever said what he is.
What he is, is the secret he keeps: he is a middle class rebel." (The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, p. 141).
Among others, elements 8-10 serve to distinguish a terrorist from a freedom fighter. (For a fuller discussion, see Source of Terrorism, pp. 136-7):
The question comes down to this:
What differentiates the perpetrators of bombings and killings in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan today from the French Resistance in the 1940s? Why are the former terrorists and the latter freedom fighters? Among other things, both groups are fighting in the name of ideals against outside occupation forces.
A key difference between the French Resistance and ISIS, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups can be summed up in two words: rigorous adaptation.
The adjustment of thought to action and vice-versa was never final in the French Resistance. The essential ambiguity surrounding crimes committed in the name of liberty and dignity was not denied, disowned, lost, excused.***** The French Resistance fighter did not escape the moral burden of his act by appealing to ideals in the form of a Divine Law above human law. The ideals were there, but so was the burden. If you blew up a train transporting Nazi munitions and innocent people were killed, you killed innocent people.
Jean-Paul Sartre, a Resistance member who was captured and spent nine months in prison, cogently phrased the adaptation dilemma in the title of a play: Dirty Hands.
The terrorist, on the contrary, does not preserve in consciousness the ambiguity of his act. He is honest consciousness personified, justice and justification confounded. The terrorist’s intentions and convictions are, for him, idées fixes, absolute truths outside time and space, above any and all questioning. The dilemma of too much knowledge that Shakespeare’s Othello experienced does not exist for the terrorist. He is past Othello; he is beyond Hamlet. Beyond any doubt, he does not suffer from doubt.******
Simply put: the terrorist does not own what he is or what he has done. The terrorist makes a decision and an evaluation once and for all; to the contrary, the French Resistance fighter continued making judgments, evaluations. He was not afraid to doubt.
* * *
By making meaningful distinctions such as why a terrorist is not a freedom fighter, our definition serves to create what the French and American government definitions lack: useful indicators for identifying terrorists.
For obvious reasons we will not present here specific indicators of terrorism which have not already been published on this blog or in Source. I hope the following discussion will give useful hints about how to develop them.
Elements 3-7 of our definition consist of criminal acts, especially violent ones, as necessary rites of passage someone must go through to become a terrorist.
Information is still coming in on Normandy terrorist Adel Kermiche. From what we have seen so far, he is a case study of a middle class rebel -- his mother is a school teacher; his sister, a medical doctor -- turned terrorist.
Since most terrorists are middle class, crimes are not a normal part of their subculture. How, then, is the connection made?
Kermiche spent 10 months in prison for trying to travel to Syria. Days before murdering Father Hamel, Kermiche stated that while incarcerated he was influenced by an unidentified "spiritual guide ... my cheikh" who gave Kermiche "ideas."
Call it what you will, it still remains the same: the "guide" was a criminal. Source of Terrorism (p. 272) discussed one bridge to violence crossed by middle class rebels.
"The combination of middle class rebels with lumpenproletariat elements [pimps, pea-and-shell game hustlers, muggers, hole-and-corner drug dealers, card sharks, and other petty criminals] can have consequences as spectacular as they are lethal. According to investigators, the attacks in Madrid in March 2004, were the work of a ´collaboration of educated, middle-class and ideologically radical Muslims with drug dealers and petty criminals.´ Elaine Sciolino, ´More Madrid suspects at large,´ International Herald Tribune, April 12, 2004.
Two other notable cases:
(i) [The Symbionese Liberation Army´s members included a former Marine, the son of a wealthy anesthesiologist, and college-educated daughters of a pharmacist, minister, college art department head, high school English teacher and engineer. They were headed by Donald DeFreeze, a 9th grade dropout, parking meter thief and escaped convict]. Six SLA members died in a fiery shoot-out with police. Others "gravitated back to where we began, which was middle class." In 1974, the Army made international headlines by kidnapping the heiress Patty Hearst.
(ii) The Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany. Andreas Baader was a high school dropout and petty criminal. Ulrike Meinhof was the daughter of a prominent art historian.
The relationships between middle class rebels and petty criminals that generate hyper-violence have never been adequately portrayed, much less analysed; Dostoevsky’s The Possessed [aka Demons] comes the closest. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood explores how, acting together, two petty criminals were capable of committing a heinous crime that neither could have committed alone."
On a practical level, why is it important to know such things?
Answer: the difference is an authentic revolution in how terrorists are analyzed, identified, processed.
We noted above that the petty thief Salah Abdeslam, one of the 10 terrorists who attacked Paris on November 13, was stopped three times by police on his way back to Belgium. He and his two companions were not detained because none were on any wanted list.
After a four-month manhunt, Abdeslam was captured on March 18. The connection between his arrest and the terrorist attacks four days later is patent. Abdeslam was involved in the planning of those attacks which were hurried up after his capture.
The key question: had Salah Abdeslam been arrested on his return to Belgium in November, would the Belgium massacre have occurred in March?
If you know who terrorists are -- about the interrelationships between middle class rebels and gangsta hoodlums -- there is an easy call to make. Any petty criminal who is out and about after a terrorist attack should be immediately detained. To the contrary of not being on any wanted list, petty criminals should be at the top of every wanted list.
The fact that French and Belgian police failed to arrest the three men indicates European authorities are as lost and confused as their American colleagues about who terrorists are.
By way of further orientation in the development of creative indicators, I offer the following notes:
Item three of our definition stresses rites of passage.******* Imprisonment is one such rite; the "martyr" video made for ISIS by the Normandy terrorists is another.
Other rites were displayed during the murder of Father Hamel. An eyewitness reported:
"They forced him to his knees and obviously he wanted to defend himself and that’s when the drama began,” Sister Danielle said, adding that she had fled the church while the terrorists cut Hamel’s throat...
Sister Danielle said the two men filmed their attack. “They didn’t see me leave,” she told the French channel BFMTV. “They were busy with their knives. They were filming themselves preaching in Arabic in front of the altar. It was a horror."
What were the terrorists saying and where did they learn it? What sort of equipment was used in the filming and where did they acquire it? How was the "martyr" video transmitted to ISIS?
As for Nice attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, an anonymous Algerian-French source said he
first met Bouhlel at the Keep Cool gym in the city center four years ago...
The pair only met outside of the gym twice—they worked out at home and discussed their attempts to attain a pre-college qualification in engineering that would allow them to study the subject at university. Bouhlel dropped out of his course in the first year."
Source emphasized (p. 295) a point made by psychiatrist and terrorist expert Marc Sageman: engineering in particular and hard sciences in general serve as magnets for terrorists. Nothing surprising there: interest in those fields is covered in item 10 of our definition -- the search for absolute truths. Unlike literature or anthropology, there is precious little which is ambiguous in engineering.
A final comment: let us assume you limit your definition of "middle class" to the socio-economic class. Let us assume further that you do not accept that Kermiche -- he grew up in a housing project -- was middle class. In strict economic terms, Nice attacker Bouhlel would be even harder to qualify as middle class.
Given those assumptions, where was the middle class element in the Normandy and Nice attacks?
Answer: who put Kermiche and Pettijean in contact? There are indications they met via Telegram, an encrypted message service popular with terrorists, only four days before they murdered Father Hamel.
As for Bouhlel, he sent his family in Tunisia $110,000 in the weeks leading up to the Nice atrocity. Where did a delivery man acquire so much money?
In both cases, look for the middle class rebel behind the curtain.
* * *
How can we get more inspectors who get it right?
The indispensable first step is as simple as it is hard: acknowledge what is evident. Sometimes, only a foreigner can take that step because there is psychological pain involved. For French readers, what follows is no exception:
The French Revolution of 1789 committed a grievous, potentially ruinous error.
The history books will tell you the revolutionaries beheaded King Louis XVI on January 21, 1793, thereby ending the monarchy.
In carrying out the death sentence, the revolutionaries took care not to guillotine King Louis XVI but rather "Private Citizen Louis Capet," the king´s birth name. Their goal was to strip him of his semi-divine status; as king, he was supposedly God´s representative on earth.
Thus, by their own admission -- indeed, insistence -- the revolutionaries killed a man, not a king. That act opened the door to a calamitous turn of events...
The French bureaucracy reached out and grabbed the vacant kingship. "Louis Capet is Dead! Long Live The Monarchy!"
L´État-providence was born. I lived in France 16 years and had numerous dealings with post-king monarchs. They never doubted for an instant what they were. Nor did I.
A Bureaucracy as Monarchy is incompatible with democracy. One or the other will die.
A Bureaucracy Monarchy is also incompatible with effectively fighting terrorism. Not sharing information; using terrorism as an excuse to hire more personnel (5,000 policemen, 1,000 border and customs guards, 2,500 justice officials) and to fatten agency budgets -- indeed, create a whole new national agency to fight terrorism; overlapping and similar agencies fighting over who is the king of the anti-terrorist hill: the bureaucratic disaster in France´s anti-terrorism fight is well documented.
Years ago, the terrorists sat up, took notice.
For starters, France is divided into 18 regions. Kermiche and Pettijean were from different regions, Normandy and Grand Est respectively. That geographical separation was a key to not being discovered in advance of their attack...
Befitting sovereign rulers -- a king is the male head of an independent territorial unit -- regional administrators in France jealously guard their prerogatives and do not adequately co-operate, communicate. We are looking at nothing less than a quasi-fiefdom system of bureaucracies. Rooted in feudalism, it is out of step and out of touch with today´s world.
French government officials will feverishly deny what you just read; however, you have already seen and will continue to see on TV the consequence of 18 French sovereigns in bombs and blood.
Of course, bureaucratic rivalries occur everywhere. However, because French bureaucracies are the post-king monarchs, those rivalries take on an added dimension. Squabbles between employees are one thing; struggles between sovereigns are altogether another.
France is not alone in living amid monarchical residues...
A vestige of the vanquished British monarchy survives in the United States. It is called sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine that comes from kingships. Because he represents god, rex non potest peccare: "The king can do no wrong."
What sovereign immunity means in practical terms: you cannot sue the state for negligence. The state can do no wrong.
Revolutionary France got rid of a guy, Louis Capet. Today, France needs to finish the job and get rid of the monarchy. Prime Minister Valls, there it is: your authentic revolution.
The simple and direct way to achieve that goal is to allow class action lawsuits against the state******** for nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance. Picture this: family members of the 84 dead victims in Nice organize and sue the government for nonfeasance, i.e., not doing what it should have done: adequately deploy police to protect the public on July 14. There is definitely a reasonable doubt that an adequate deployment took place.
To those who bureaucratically respond it cannot be done, here is what happened in the state where I worked in the governor´s office:
Sovereign immunity in various forms was on its way out nationally, and we decided to go along with the trend. When our state´s judges balked, we granted a extension of sovereign immunity for one more year plus ... hefty pay raises for judges.
Tragically, for historical reasons given above, sovereign immunity is more alive in France than in the U.S. where its status varies from state to state. Under French law, nonfeasance/misfeasance/-malfeasance class action lawsuits against the state are not permitted. Still, the victims´ families can organize and make their case in the media. If they do, they will make a political tsunami heard around the world. They will also truly honor July 14 -- the key date of the 1789 French revolution -- by finishing the storming of the Bastille.
By not providing legal remedies, France is not only encouraging illegal ones, it is also depriving itself of a necessary tool to control its out-of-control Bureaucracy Monarchy.
And that means, France is depriving itself of more inspectors who get it right.
*« L’acte surréaliste le plus simple consiste, revolvers aux poings, à descendre dans la rue et à tirer au hasard, tant qu’on peut, dans la foule. Qui n’a pas eu, au moins une fois, envie d’en finir de la sorte avec le petit système d’avilissement et de crétinisation en vigueur a sa place toute marquée dans cette foule, ventre à hauteur de canon. » André Breton, Second manifeste du surréalisme, in André Breton, Œuvres complètes, Volume I, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Gallimard, Paris, 1988, pp. 782-3. My translation.
**« Tout ce qui renforce notre efficacité mérite d’être retenu, mais il y a une ligne infranchissable : l’Etat de droit. A ce titre, l’enfermement d’individus dans des centres sur la base du seul soupçon est moralement et juridiquement inacceptable [...] Cependant, nous avons changé d’époque. Nous devons changer nos comportements. C’est une véritable révolution dans notre culture de sécurité qu’il faut engager. » My translation.
***Carl Jung, Contributions to Analytical Psychology, p. 193.
****« Constituent des actes de terrorisme, lorsqu'elles sont intentionnellement en relation avec une entreprise individuelle ou collective ayant pour but de troubler gravement l'ordre public par l'intimidation ou la terreur [...] » My translation.
*****The wartime works of René Char, poet and French Resistance leader under the name “Alexandre,” are filled with scepticism, relentless self-questioning, ambivalence, ambiguity: “Man agonizes between two contempts.” (« l’homme agonise entre deux mépris. »); “We are stretched between the thirst to know and the despair of having known.” (« Nous sommes écartelées entre l’avidité de connaître et le désespoir d’avoir connu. »); “Atrocious obligations.” (« Devoirs infernaux. »); “Are we destined to be only beginnings of truth?” (« Somme-nous voués à n’être que des débuts de vérité? »; “A jugement that engages does not always fortify.” (« Un jugement qui engage ne fortifie pas toujours. ») René Char, Feuillets d’Hypnos, Gallimard, Paris, 2007, p. 18 (fragment 36); p. 19 (fragment 39); p. 36 (fragment 106); p. 130 (fragment 186), p. 68 (fragment 226). My translations.
******Compare René Char with an al-Qaeda leader:
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, appearing for the first time since his capture five years ago, said he would welcome becoming a “martyr” after a judge warned…that he faced the death penalty for his confessed role as mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks...
The judge warned that he faced execution if convicted of organizing the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. But Mohammed, the former No. 3 leader of Al Qaeda, was insistent.
“Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time,” Mohammed said, “I will, God willing, have this by you.”...
Calmly propping his glasses on his turban to peer at legal papers, Mohammed grinned at times and insisted that he would not be represented by any attorneys. He told the judge he “can only accept Sharia,” or Islamic, law.
“There is no God but him; in him I have put my trust,”
Mohammed chanted before [Judge Ralph] Kohlmann asked him to stop. (Author not identified, “An author of Sept. 11 seeks death," International Herald Tribune, June 6, 2008).
Other than to con their enemies, no terrorist expresses doubts, consternation, fragility.
*******A thorough and systematic knowledge of such rites is not only vital for the development of practical indicators of terrorism. That knowledge is also necessary for the creation of rites of passage for the reintegration of terrorists into society -- rites that presently are at best non-existent or irrelevant, at worst counterproductive.
The first place to look for the way out is the way in.
********On October 1, 2014 France permitted for the first time class action lawsuits. However, they (i) must be presented by a handful of established consumer organizations, and (ii) are limited to consumer complaints against private companies.