Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Verdict on Toulouse: French Incompetence

Mohammad Merah, the self-confessed murderer of Jewish schoolchildren and French soldiers, died while jumping from his bathroom window in a torrent of police gunfire around 11:30 this morning in Toulouse. “This man doesn’t interest me,” Nicole Yardeni, the president of the regional Council of Jews, scoffed after the 32-hour siege had finally ended. “He is only an instrument of death.” But the French press seemed plenty interested. “Itinerary of a killer,” Le Parisien headlined its story over a front-page photo of a smirking Merah. “End of the road for a killer,” L’Humanite trumpeted. “Trajectory of hatred,” Libération blared.

Perhaps it was well that the French had become interested in Merah at last. Although he was on a Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur “watch list” since 2008, no one was apparently watching him.

Claude Guéant, the interior minister, defended the French intelligence agency’s failure by saying it follows “a lot of people engaged in radical Islamism. Expressing ideas and manifesting Salafist opinions is not grounds enough for prosecution,” he explained.

Maybe not, but Merah did more than merely express Salafist opinions. A neighbor in Toulouse filed two police complaints after Merah had tried to recruit her son to jihad by showing him Al Qaeda videos of murders and beheadings, Haaretz reported earlier today. A petty criminal who was known to police for his violent streak from childhood, Merah was radicalized in prison, traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to receive terrorist training at the hands of Al Qaeda, and returned to France determined to kill.

Even when they had Merah cornered, the French authorities did not appear to know what to do with him. After two gunshots were heard from Merah’s apartment shortly before 1:00 in the morning, Guéant wondered aloud if Merah had killed himself. French commandos waited another ten hours, with no communication from Merah, before assaulting his apartment. A special camera was inserted into the apartment, but Merah could not be found. Finally he fired upon them from the balcony and retreated to his bathroom to await them. When the commandos burst in, Merah emerged from the bathroom, firing ferociously, wounding one officer in the foot. Then he dashed back to the bathroom and flung himself from the window.

A columnist for the Telegraph described Merah as a Nike or “Just Do It” terrorist. “[I]ntelligence experts believe al-Qaeda no longer has the organisational capacity to conduct [spectacular] attacks [like 9/11],” Con Coughlin wrote. “Instead they are focusing their energy on softer targets.” Merah may be among the first of a new wave of “lone wolf” terrorists, experts fear.

That’s one fear. My fear is that French powerlessness — the French inability to stop Merah before he murdered Jews and soldiers, the French incompetence at preventing him from writing the last chapter of his own story, going out in a blaze of gunfire, refusing to be taken alive — will only encourage more Islamist terrorists. Whether France has shown that it cannot protect its Jews remains an open question. What France has abundantly demonstrated, however, is that it cannot prevent known Islamists from carrying out terrorist attacks on French soil, nor capture them alive once they have done so.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.