Friday, November 13, 2015

Guéant Convicted

Claude Guéant, once Nicolas Sarkozy's right-hand man and interior minister, has been convicted of misuse of public funds and given a suspended sentence of two years. But France is so inured to corruption in high places that no one is really shocked by the pettiness and venality of people entrusted with enforcing its laws. And like other ministerial criminals, he will do no jail time, despite being called the "instigator" of a scheme to defraud the public treasury. Perhaps he considers the blot on his reputation a small price to pay for the years of comfort his peculation afforded him. Of course he still faces charges in connection with alleged fraud in a sale of paintings, so perhaps he won't escape real punishment altogether.


bernard said...

Major terrorist attacks underway in several places in Paris right now. large number of victims at Stade de France and playhouse Bataclan as well as restaurants in 10th arrondissement. Probable game changer.

Mitch Guthman said...

Yes, it seems to be a major attack. Very well planned and, more importantly, it was carried out at a time and place where security was very high because of the France-Germany match. I'm watching France 24 and not following everything well but it looks like there's been a decision not to release a lot of details because there's very little detail about the attacks and almost nothing about the hostage situation at Bataclan (according to AP 100 hostages).

I agree it's probably a game changer but I don't have any sense of how, since it already basically decided that the final round will be between MLP and whoever is the candidate of the UMP. Obviously, universal calls for a real crackdown in the Arabe communities but short of declaring martial laws in those areas I can't imagine what more anyone can propose since I suspect that the police and security services have been making major efforts to infiltrate all those communities since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Maybe the question is whether someone in the FN will propose the explosion of all Muslims regardless of nationality or something equally crazy.

Death toll now up to 35. It's a terrible situation. I just don't know what can be done without radically and horribly changing Western society. But I think it is clear that we need to do something different. I just don't know what.

bernard said...

State of emergency throughout France. Borders sealed.

Mitch Guthman said...

Yes, I heard Hollande speak. It was a surprisingly good speech and quite forceful for him.

I understand necessity for the state of emergency because everyone on France 24 is asking whether there will be more attacks. And the situation at the Bataclan (about which we know very little) must be resolved. But what are the implications of the declaration of a state of emergency? If this represents a second, even larger and infinitely more sophisticated attack to come from this same community, what should be done to prevent future attacks that isn’t being done today?

Just now on France 24 they have a series of remotes (not all of which I was able to follow) but there were pictures of Paris on a Friday night after a big football match and the place looks like a ghost-town. They are talking about all of France being mobilized (presumably against Daesh) but the question is: Mobilized to do what? And, if it was Daesh (or, more realistically, locals acting in its name), this is the second major attack against Paris and it was far to large and well organized to have been completely hidden from everyone. If I am right about that (and we'll see if arrests are made soon) the implications are horrifying.

bert said...

A state of emergency affects rules of engagement for the troops and specialist police.
If it's helpful, France24 run an English language rolling news service, streaming on

Mitch Guthman said...


Thanks for the"state of emergency" link. France 24 has been running videos and I can see armed soldiers on the streets. The Wikipedia entry does answer one question I had about Hollande's statement declaring a state of emergency and deploying the military. Given that there were apparently seven different locations that were attacked and the possibility of additional attacks, this seems like a reasonable precaution.

But once Wikipedia gave me the links, I was able to see that there are other powers that come with a state of emergency beyond the ability to deploy the army. Indeed, there are powers not enumerated in the Wikipedia entry. The relevant ones would be to be what I understood to be unlimited powers to search and very greatly enhanced powers to detain and interrogate without a judicial warrant. I assume the government (who I also assume already knows enough about the attackers to begin an investigation) will be making good use of those enhanced powers. My only hope is that is these enhanced powers are used wisely and in a way that is neither excessive nor abusive of the right of French citizens.

I have been going back and forth between the French and English media (particularly France 24 where that can be done with a single click) and I have been very impressed by the quality of the coverage and even of the commentary. It has been totally unlike American cable television. Regrettably, my comprehension was better because I had a lot of the vocabulary from Charlie Hebdo.

Now that the hostage situation at the Bataclan has been resolved, we will hopefully begin to learn more about the attacks and the attackers. This is another contrasts between the US and France: The French learned at least a few lessons from the Charlie Hebdo attacks and didn't risk making the situation worse with premature releases of information and ill-informed speculation about the attackers.

This has just been an terrible day. Apparently, the attackers simply fired into the crowd at the Bataclan. Over 100 people reportedly died in the theater alone. But, as I said before, I don't think an operation like this could have been kept a complete secret to the attackers friends and neighbors and that fact is almost as disturbing as the attacks themselves.

FrédéricLN said...

@ Mitch Guthman: you make the very important point. The first time since OAS, I guess, that terrorist attacks in France are carried out by such a large group of people — implying a broad network. It means, encysted social groups, far beyond deviant individuals or families.

At this step, *intelligence means become far less effective*, imho. Our enemy has (some) strategic depth.

BTW I am fully conscious that September 11th involved more terrorists and a broader support network. And the victims were as innocent under any perspective, as Parisians killed yesterday were.

But we French did not have to manage in depth the consequences of New York attacks. We are just in now.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Fédéric,

Yes, I think the OAS is a perfect example. We’re talking about significant networks of people with varying degrees of involvement and commitment. Not everyone in or around the OAS was prepared to rob a bank, plant a bomb or fire a submachine gun into De Gaulle’s limousine. But there were a lot of sympathizers who provided information, places to stay, and a great many more on the margins who were sympathetic enough to at least contribute their silence to the cause. I think a similar dynamic might be at work here and it seems to me that anything that marginalizes Muslims rather than drawing them into the mainstream of French society makes everything worse for everybody.

bernard said...

@Mitch @Frederic

Making a parallel with OAS is actually wrong: OAS was a French bred group with major support among the French and parts of the French military hierarchy and little support outside France, this group has major support outside France and little support among the French (including of course citizens of Muslim faith) and of course no support at all among the French military hierarchy.

BTW, I know about OAS very well indeed, they are the reason why I speak English, had nightmares throughout my childhood and was treated as a friend by Algeria 25 years ago. Trust me, they did not just try to assassinate De Gaulle, they tried to assassinate me too.

Mitch Guthman said...


The point of the OAS analogy wasn't that the Islamists enjoy a similar level of support in French society but that they have some similarities in the ways in which they are organized and protected by communities within France. What I think Frédéric and I were saying is that we are apparently dealing with highly sophisticated networks of terrorists rather than with one or two lone wolves who are “inspired” by ISIS. Like the OAS, the ISIS terrorists have significant resources, including powerful backers and many members who hold European passports.

The OAS, which was the operation wing of certain right-wing organizations and secret societies, was organized in classic operational networks and cells, drew support from their own milieu or subculture. In their case, it was a mixture of elements of the French Army, people devoted the cause of keeping Algeria for the French and portions of right-leaning segments of the French populace.

ISIS’s European organization seems to be similarly organized into networks and cells. One such network was capable of mounting a large scale, complex operation in a major European capital that was already in high alert. This attack and future attacks of this scale are possible only if the terrorists can safely base themselves in Muslim communities in Europe.

The networks that carried out the November 13th attacks would seem to be actively supported by a only comparatively small number Muslims in France and Belgium but almost certainly they received an almost total level of tacit support from a majority of Muslims in the communities where the network was based. This suggests that there are very large numbers of Muslims who are sufficiently disconnected from French and Belgian society that they will not betray the Islamists who are moving and organizing among them.

I think those are the relevant similarities.