Paris, November 13th, war time and beyond …

Op-ed by Alexis Poulin, EurActiv France Director and Dan Van Raemdonck, FIDH Secretary General, published in l’Obs on 24 November 2015 (in French).

Above and beyond the necessary and wholesome empathy, we must respect the memory of the victims and bring our support to their families, to their close friends as well as to all those who felt blindly targeted by these cowardly attacks against democracy and its values.
We must remain standing and inflexible in the defence of our values in the face of this inhumanity, but also in response to hatred speeches by fascists or populists looking for scape-goats. We have to stay united, protect our freedom, equality, human rights, without accepting that these attacks are a pretext for the violation of any of these fundamental rights, forcing our societies to become lost in an endless war.


War is a political, financial and industrial ecosystem that allows several actors to sit their power by limiting free thinking and civil freedoms: the State, the industry and the arms trade, and finally, the financial system.

A war is also the moment when an enemy is defined and created. Against whom dare we fighting? The French State decided to declare war on ISIS, and by doing so gives this terrorist organization the "honorable " title of enemy of the Nation. But what do we really know of this group of radical criminals who use Islam as a weapon of mass destruction?

There is only one sure thing we know about war : when it begins, but never how nor when it ends. And so far an armistice has never been signed with a protean enemy without legal existence.

The Arms Industry at work

Weapons and the capitalist economy benefitting from their sale is undoubtedly one of the main actors of war. Is it logical and welcome that the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are the biggest sellers of weapons on the planet? Doubtless, as is the fact that Saudi Arabia sits on the Council of Human Rights, even though this Monarchy imprisons, tortures and kills for simple thought crime. So what does the arms market hide?

A geopolitical reality of clientelism: the French Government prides itself on its record sales of weapons of mass destruction to regimes, little worried about freedom of expression and human rights. In 2015, French arms sales amounted to between 16and 17 billion Euros and any opportunity to show the flagships of the current French armament is a great opportunity to inflate order books. Saudi Arabia is the major customer of French arms manufacturers in financial volume of contracts. It is also the second biggest importer of arms in the world, buying its diplomacy and remains, in spite of its armament on a large scale, a minor actor for regional stability in the Gulf, and indeed is a co-leading player behind the region’s instability.

Herein lies the hypocrisy of the producing states: the arms trade has to respect a series of international rules, but sales flows show that control of weapons exports varies largely according to the frequency of purchase by receiving states, as well as how rampant corruption may be. The weapons market provides the perfect place for smuggling, allowing a parallel diplomacy, certain to bring about the worst outcomes without taking responsibility for the consequences.

States and Nations

By killing young people enjoying a night out on Friday evening in Paris, ISIS attacks certainly France, but also a certain idea of life, freedom, civil rights and humanism. Nevertheless, weakened by decades of realpolitik, successive governments of the French State have repeatedly made concessions and traded with nations for whom human rights are only an imperialist concept set to challenge their authority.

By reaffirming the authority of the State through technological superiority, the French State enters a logic of war, which can only be doomed to fail, given the nature of the enemy. To the high technology of drones - planes without pilots - the jihadists answer with the poor man’s drone: the suicide bomber – a foot soldier without a brain, on automatic pilot.

By turning a blind eye to the conflicting civilizational projects at stake, old nationalist rhetoric is strengthened, right where it has no grounds. The jihadist is an enemy from within, produced by his socio-psychological weakness and by his hatred for a civilization to which he has only marginal access. From anti-authority speeches of class and generation which are felt as an attack on their identity and dignity, some young outcasts, incapable of interacting within the framework of a respectful dialogue of diversity, develop a fundamentalist view of Islam and find meaning in a doctrine of sectarian apocalypse.

Our democracies were weak in the defence of their dearly gained liberties. Weak, by failing to ensure a decent life for all without discrimination ; weak, by accepting foreign intervention in religious organization; weak in eradicating hatred speeches at the source and weak by allowing oil monarchies and dictatorships to buy our silence on their practices which go against human dignity.


Let’s not forget the financial obscenity of our world in order to denounce the war logic currently at play.

Speculation, powerful ratings agencies, international authorities eager to choke States in debt economy are just some of the many facets contributing to the death of democracies by financial suffocation.

Criticized in Marc Chesney’s book " From the great war to the permanent crisis ", the financial aristocracy has been in charge since 1914 and has always ensured its survival and independence by making the political class powerless, incapable to act for the common good against its increasingly visible drift.

Naomi Klein, author of "The Shock Doctrine", explains how disaster capitalism, using a strategy of ‘shock’ (for example change of regime, war), allows an ultra-liberal doctrine to be imposed, which only increases inequality.

In order to conform to its Stability Pact, the French State agreed to cut the Social Security and public service budgets (including local police and associations helping prevent radicalization). Now, the State is re-financing the key services of control without regard for the Stability Pact figures. Powerless in the face of economic evolution and incapable of satisfying social demands, the State concentrates its energy on creating more surveillance in the name of ensuring the safety of its citizens. The state of emergency and laws favoring further control will affect our social organization. These laws will be, as in the past, used for purposes other than the fight against terrorism and risk serving as a means to suffocate any anti-authority movement.

These budget shifts in favor of generalized control are for the profit of the financial aristocracy, who wants only one thing: to be able to deregulate in ordered and peacefully controlled economies. All debates on the financial chaos that led to the 2008 crisis are now closed.

Let us not make a fatal mistake about our opponent nor about the purpose of war, Mister President, and let us remember your words as a candidate during the speech at Le Bourget during the 2012 French Presidential campaign:

" My real opponent (…) has no name, no face, no party. It will never run in elections. It will not be elected. And nevertheless, it governs. My opponent, it is the financial world. (…) Finance freed itself from any rule, from any morality, from any control. "

Since then, you were elected thanks to the virtue of the principles of the Republic and Democracy. Do not be another one of its gravediggers.

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