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Deaths And Desperation: ISIS, The Paris Attacks And Terrorism's New Calculus

Young women have formed the word Paris with candles to mourn for the victims killed in Friday's attacks in Paris, France, in front of the French Embassy in Berlin, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Multiple attacks across Paris on Friday night have left scores dead and hundreds injured. (Markus Schreiber/ AP)
Young women have formed the word Paris with candles to mourn for the victims killed in Friday's attacks in Paris, France, in front of the French Embassy in Berlin, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Multiple attacks across Paris on Friday night have left scores dead and hundreds injured. (Markus Schreiber/ AP)
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The scrunched, raging face spewed its foul breath across a warm evening in the City of Light, turning a night of possibility where people were meeting friends, going on first dates, celebrating birthdays, rooting for teams, trying a new restaurant and taking in a live concert, into one of disgust and despair.

Last time the pugilistic pout lashed out in Paris, its targets made at least some irrational sense. Ten months ago, the angry face killed 12 people at the magazine Charlie Hebdo for poking fun at its prophet. It murdered four people at a kosher market, because, well, it seems any Jews will do as victims of the angry face, engaging in payback for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

As the angry face morphs into a desperate one, its actions will become more impetuous, and as hard as this is to fathom, more violent.

On Friday, November 13, the seething scowl returned. Although it is always mad at France for sins against Algerians and their descendants, this time it struck at other nationalities. The greatest number of deaths, at least 80, occurred at the old concert hall, Bataclan, where up to 1,500 fans had come to see an American band, Eagles of Death Metal, perform.

The furious frown announced its revenge for Syria before picking off the attendees by shooting into the darkened theatre. The flash from its Kalashnikovs glowed with the rage of losers, mad that the Americans had kept striking ISIS in Syria and Iraq, had armed its enemies, and persuaded more countries to sign onto the campaign. Namely, France, which began bombing ISIS in Syria in September. Lately, French jets have pummeled Syrian oil and gas fields in an effort to cut off the militant group’s lucrative revenue source, estimated to produce up to $500 million annually, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

It makes irrational sense that the U.S. is on the angry face’s hit list for grievances dating from the Gulf War, including the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi, in addition to the worldwide drone war. American citizens are being held accountable for their government’s actions, whether that citizen is enjoying a rock concert, or doing his job as a journalist reporting in Syria.

But last night, the murderous mug, which is usually very specific in its targets, lost its way. It exploded two bombs at a soccer match played between the Germans and French. Why the Germans? They have haven’t launched any strikes against ISIS in Syria or Iraq. The angry face also raked with gunfire a Cambodian restaurant named Le Petit Cambodge, killing at least 14 people who were dining outside. What did the Cambodians ever do to ISIS? They aren’t involved in Iraq or Syria, either. The face also shot up an Italian restaurant. The Italians did not sign on to the air war.

The more indiscriminate the violence, the more ordinary citizens will line up against it. Nobody likes collateral damage.

Nearly half of the locations assaulted were poorly selected for their symbolic effect, indicating that the angry face was sloppier than usual. It is losing track of its ultimate goal, to pressure governments to end the air campaign. As the angry face morphs into a desperate one, its actions will become more impetuous, and as hard as this is to fathom, more violent. The petulant puss is about to learn what the Americans did a long time ago. The more indiscriminate the violence, the more ordinary citizens will line up against it. Nobody likes collateral damage.

If the indiscriminate violence is to persuade more of the disaffected to join the furious face, it might have failed already. At this point, more people are streaming out of Syria than going in, and the place most want to go is Germany, which has accepted more recent refugees than any other European country.

As diplomats set a timeline for ending the conflict and beginning talks on the political transition of Syria on January 1, the military pressure on ISIS will only continue as the world powers try to force an end to the war. Hunker down, as the angry face prepares its machine for the rage of all time.

Susan E. Reed has reported from France and the Middle East.

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Susan E. Reed Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Susan E. Reed is a columnist who has won several awards for her international reporting and her book, "The Diversity Index."

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