A Perspective on the Paris Atrocity


By Steve Max

Was the brutal attack in Paris just one more irrational bloody act by a demented sect, or was it more in the line of an act of war, a type of war where causalities on all sides are overwhelmingly civilian? If it was an act of war, what are its origins? 

A recent headline said: "France Launches First Airstrikes Against Syria." You probably think that it announced the French retaliation for the brutal ISIS murders in Paris. It didn't. The date was September 27th, 2015.  After the Paris shooting, French President Hollande said "This is war."  He apparently didn't mean that it was the start of a war. That had already happened. He must have been describing what war is – you hit them with whatever you have, and they hit back with whatever they have. That's war, and countries that engage in it expect at the outset to sacrifice a certain amount of their civilian population.  ISIS is an exception, as it has virtually no civilian population. It hijacks Iraqi and Syrian civilians who, if they aren't killed by ISIS, are killed when bombs fall on ISIS,

The New Yorker magazine reports that ISIS made it clear: the mass murder is retaliation for being bombed.  “As long as you continue to bomb us, you will not live in peace,” a bearded IS militant said in a video claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks. “You will even be afraid to go to the market.” While horrified, we should not be surprised.

The history of these awful events goes back much further. Said the Guardian (UK)," France, the former colonial power after the Ottoman Empire broke up, has been one of the most outspoken western powers on Syria from the start of the crisis. Two years ago France was pushing for military action against Assad. . . ." Two months later, France announced that it was starting weapons shipments to Syrian rebels. "Despite being one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fiercest critics, France has until now resisted arming the rebels, fearing that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist militant elements fighting in the country. . . . According to British defense consultancy IHS Jane's, up to 10,000 jihadists from all over the world are fighting alongside the rebels in Syria as they try to overthrow the government. However, there are also jihadis who are fighting to replace the Assad regime with an Islamic state." France 24. 9/20/13.

Of course, the role of France in Syria is miniscule compared to that of the U.S., which has been trying to install a pro-American regime since the 1950s and has armed and bankrolled the Syrian opposition. The U.S. claims to be able to distinguish between arming moderate militias and arming extremists, although it has been noted that if they have guns, they aren't moderates.  We are seeing both a terrorist and a refugee crisis that was manufactured in the West as a result of the mistaken view that the U.S. and its allies can change any regime at will.

 The Irish Times put it well, saying, "But ultimately, the chaos in the Middle East – and by extension the attacks in Paris – are the result of George W. Bush and Tony Blair’s mendacious, disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq. High-ranking Baathists from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services, though secularists, joined forces with the jihadists who fought the occupation of Iraq. . . . Al-Qaeda in Iraq bred the even more extreme offshoot, IS. There’s a straight line between the radicalization of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS leader imprisoned a decade ago in the Americans’ Camp Bucca, and France’s present torment."

Of course, knowing the roots of the crisis is not the same as solving it.  The first step, in my view, is to end the Western-sponsored war against Assad and unite all forces in Syria willing to fight ISIS. The next could be ending the ongoing threats of an invasion of Iran. Yes, we can bomb ISIS, but we can't bomb an idea or seven guys with guns who live next door. A new ISIS will spring up if the present one goes. Peace and an end to imperialist regime change is the only solution. 

Steve Max is a DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.


Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 82 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 47 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.


Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.


Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 19 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.