Terror in Paris


Editorial Board
New York Times
Nov 14, 2015

On Saturday morning, after an evening of incomprehensible barbarism against a free and civilized society by armed terrorists, President François Hollande of France declared the attacks an act of war. More than 125 people were slaughtered in multiple venues in Paris — in a concert hall, at several restaurants, near a sports stadium, on the street. Mr. Hollande declared a nationwide state of emergency, imposed checks at all of France’s borders, and called in the army to protect the city.

The Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility, and vowed that this was “only the beginning of the storm” to punish France for its airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

This attack, Mr. Hollande said, was “against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the entire planet.” He vowed that France would respond, using “all the necessary means, and on all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies, who are, themselves, targeted by this terrorist threat.”

The targets — the Stade de France sports stadium where Mr. Hollande and thousands of other fans were watching a soccer match between the national teams of France and Germany, popular restaurants in the hip neighborhoods around the Canal Saint Martin and the Bastille, and the Bataclan music venue packed with concertgoers there to hear the American band Eagles of Death Metal — seemed selected because they were places where people freely gathered to enjoy the public pleasures the Islamic State hates: sports, music, wine and food shared by men and women together.

It is less than a year since Paris was shaken by the attacks in January on the Charlie Hebdo magazine staff and a kosher supermarket. Those attacks prompted national soul-searching about France’s secular values and sweeping antiterror legislation to allow authorities to better track would-be assailants.

The attacks in January, after which millions of people marched in solidarity with the victims, were tightly targeted. Friday’s carnage was of a different, more sweeping order. It was designed to strike terror into every person going about ordinary activities, to make the French feel that they are not safe, anywhere.

The eight gunmen, armed with assault weapons, grenades and suicide belts packed with explosives, are dead. But, as Parisians awake to a grim morning after, many questions remain unanswered, including whether any accomplices are at large, who coordinated the attacks, and whether counterterrorism efforts could have foiled the plot. There is also the question of how long the state of emergency — which gives authorities sweeping powers and suspends some democratic rights — will last. Clearly, the state of emergency should be ended as soon as possible.

The coldblooded depravity with which the terrorists gunned down people seated at restaurant tables and picked off hostages in the Bataclan concert hall where more than 80 were killed was horrifying. But Parisians have remained defiant and united. Last night, as the carnage unfolded, Parisians took to social media, using the hashtag #porteouverte, or “open door,” to offer sanctuary in their homes to people fleeing the mayhem. By morning, hundreds of Paris residents were lining up to donate blood and looking for other ways to help.

This attack will harden the resolve of the French against the savagery of the Islamic State, as it must the world’s.

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