“This is the first time that our troops have been mobilised to such an extent on our own soil..The threats remain and we have to protect ourselves from them. It is an internal operation that will mobilise almost as many men as we have in our overseas operations.”-French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian
The Paris attacks were not primarily on freedom of speech or 'our values'. They are an act of criminal terror designed to get the state in France to overreact and erode the very freedoms Al Qaida and Islamist fanatics believe are 'fake' and a 'sham' because Muslims are 'oppressed' by that state.
The massacre of journalists and police officers could only be considered a serious threat to an old democracy such as France's if the French state and French institutions were determined to treat it as such, as a civilizational threat as opposed to a mere criminal terror attack.
Evidently, at one level murdering satirical cartoonists portraying images of Muhammad and ridiculing Islam could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate those jeering at jihadists. But, of course, the protest reaction against that on the streets of Paris appears to prove it did not work.
The problem is that rallies with protesters holding aloft giant pencils proclaiming "We Are Not Afraid' might come across as protesting a bit too much. If French society was indeed not afraid, then it would simply carry on as before the attacks without much need to prove that it could.
The Paris attacks have caused so much confused reaction it is necessary outline the thinking behind the Al Qaida and ISIS franchised terror group strategy in operation. One point of the attacks is to 'punish' what is regarded as an evil country for its war against 'the Muslim World'.
Amedy Coulibaly,who attacked the kosher market, in his ISIS branded film "Soldier of the Caliphate" said 'What we are doing is completely legitimate, given what they are doing. You cannot attack and not expect retribution so you are playing the victim as if you don't understand what's happening.'
The entire thrust of that propaganda is one in which the terrorist is in some way being 'made' to do it out of an outraged sense of injustice at what France is doing in its foreign policy. The idea is to provoke the French government into declaring it is 'at war' with ISIS and Al Qaida.
That strategy has worked because President Hollande used the terror attacks immediately to co-opt support for France's ongoing struggles claimed France was 'at war' with Al Qaida in Mali and Somalia. This is precisely what Al Qaida wants because it leads to increased recruits and funding.
The attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine by the Kouachi brothers were not publicly justified by any video message left behind because the idea was to allow French society, its media and politicians, to define their response to it in ways Al Qaida could then subsequently exploit.
The target was considered the most suitable one to polarise French society. It would sharpen the antagonism between those who would see it as an attack on the secular republic and freedom of speech and those who would admire, or at least, sympathise with 'Islamophobes' being shot dead.
There is no need to openly justify the attacks on Charlie Hebdo when any attack on any target anyway would subsequently be rationalised in the media as largely a violent reflex to 'western foreign policy' by unintelligent hacks, Islamists and vulgar 'anti-war' ideologues on the far left.
In that sense, western newspapers and a free media could be relied upon to put the case of Al Qaida forward for it. That would be done either by spouting the idea that foreign policy caused it or else that Kouachi and others were 'alienated' by the socio-economic deprivation of French Muslims.
It is equally true that the western media would not provide much in the way of examining the exact link between the jihadist radicals and France's role in the 'war on terror' or if France had taken that war to ISIS and Al Qaida in Africa and the Middle East for reasons other than defeating 'terror'.
Indeed, the reasons for France's 'war on terror' are, of course, much about strategic resource interests in lands such as Mali and other states sub-Saharan Africa from Chad to Niger and northern Nigeria where there are brutal and corrupt states in battle with brutal and fanatical Islamist insurgent groups.
There is dark and grotesque irony in this. Increasingly western governments and jihadist groups depend on each other in order to advance their respective interests, which are controlling both natural and human resources across state borders like huge transnational business corporations.
Military intervention by France from Afghanistan to Mali, from Libya and Syria and Iraq provides the opportunity to test out profitable drone technologies against jihadist forces while shoring up regimes that could provide security for resource supplies and access to untapped resources.
Al Qaida can always recruit useful idiots to do their work for them as they are a corporation with a keen eye on employing and deploying their human resources in regions with lots of cheap labour abounding. The terror network of networks is the dark flip side to neoliberal globalisation.
So the problem western states such as France have is that they advocate military intervention in lands as part of a global war on terror because they have large and voracious consumer economies that use up colossal amounts of resources and are in dire need of future energy security.
So the wrong questions are being asked in reaction to the Paris terror attacks. There is a nasty ideology that needs to be challenged, one which pits all Muslims as being everywhere victimised and attacked by the west, even when most Muslims are being killed by jihadists and sectarian militias.
However, there the real question is whether the French security services knew about jihadi recruiting in France for Syria but did nothing. The reason is that jihadists, while posing a potential threat to civilians in the west, were useful when deployed as 'assets' in overthrowing the Assad government.
Throughout 2011-13 France was adamant that 'Assad must go' and so was aligned with Qatar and Turkey to remove Assad for geopolitical reasons. These include countering Iranian power, the possibility of a Qatar-Turkey-EU gas pipeline, French imports of LNG from Qatar and arms deals.
Terrorism experts have raised questions about whether the French security services turned a blind eye to jihadi recruiting for Syria because they thought is was fine so long as it diverted jihadi aggression outwards towards Assad in Syria and Gaddafi in Libya instead of towards France.
In an interview with Newsweek, expert Charles Shoebridge has asserted that the French security services knew about jihadi recruiting in France for Syria but did nothing because it was initially in the interests of the French state's foreign policy in the Middle East to use them.
The Paris attacks would be an example of disastrous blowback of the sort the already growing French and British surveillance states would expect as a consequence of their failed policy of invading Libya in 2011 and then covertly backing Sunni jihadists in Syria. Shoebridge made it plain,
'For the first two of the last three years, countries such as the UK and France did little to stem the flow of their citizens to an already destabilised Syria and Libya,perhaps believing these jihadists would serve Western foreign policy objectives in attacking Gaddafi and Assad for example.....
Only when domestic intelligence services began to warn of the dangers of blowback from such people, and when groups such as ISIS began over the last year to turn against the West in Iraq and Syria for example, was any real action taken to stop the flow of UK and French citizens to what, in effect, were largely western policy created terrorist recruiting and training grounds. By then, as Europe seems increasingly likely to experience, it was already too late.'
Jason Burke, one of the foremost experts on Al Qaida wrote in The Guardian that ''French authorities were under pressure ....to explain how a network of Islamic extremists already known to intelligence services and with possible links overseas was able to carry out the deadly attack"
What is interesting that the last recorded activity by the intelligence services of France and Yemen were in 2011 when Said Kouachi received training in small arms combat and marksmanship. There he met Anwar al-Awlaki, a fanatical jihadist preacher and hatemonger.
Thereafter, there is no mention of the Kouachi's having been under surveillance despite the Cherif Kouachi had been in prison between 2005 and October 2006 and again in 2008. This points to a lax justice system. Both of them had had been implicated a plot to spring a jihadist from prison in 2010.
The Kouachi's were known subversives implicated in sending fighters to Iraq and, even if France was not at war or involved with that invasion as was Britain along with the US, the French security services would appear to have simply allowed them to slip off the radar as the war in Syria broke out.
Perhaps Patrick Cockburn is right to assert that the security services could not expect to keep tabs on all sympathisers with jihad at once :global jihadi so numerous and diverse that 'identifying those who pose a real danger is extremely difficult' . Even so, he claims the scale of the threat is 'blowback'.
'It was political leaders who got rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and have tried to displace Bashar al-Assad in Syria without thinking through the consequences'.The state sanctified Paris rally for freedom of speech on Sunday 11 January 2015 means little in the broader scheme of things. It is going to be nothing more than a gesture if journalists are not going to try to start probing and investigating a lot more the exact nature of this cynical power game.