Why were we in the United States so grief-stricken when learned about the attacks in Paris last Friday? Why does the wanton taking of lives in Paris — at the Bataclan concert hall, at the Stade de France, and at two restaurants, including Le Petit Cambodge — affect us more than 41 people killed in two suicide bombings in Beirut the night before? And why does the death of a 23-year-old Cal State student named Nohemi Gonzalez make this more personal for Latinos?
I’m sure Nohemi was every bit the exemplary Latina that the her obituary describes, and her death is certainly a tragedy, as is the death of each of the 132 people whose futures were erased last week. But it shouldn’t matter to Latino Americans that someone with the last name Gonzalez died in the Paris attacks.
From the moment reports of the attacks began, the U.S. media seemed plagued by two questions: who was responsible, and how many Americans were killed or injured? As the lifeless vessels of former human beings lay strewn across the French capital, many in the United States were hoping a U.S. citizen wouldn’t be found among the carnage. Imagine that: sifting through dead bodies just to find out if some of yours have been taken.
Nohemi’s murder was random; so were the murders of the other 131 victims. They were killed by Daesh, an apocalyptic group adhering to a literal interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts. Make no mistake: Western policies toward the Arab world have created the environment for groups like Daesh to sprout, but it is religious dogma that gives the armies of God their bloodlust. When they’re chopping off the heads of apostates and throwing homosexuals off of buildings, they believe they’re commanded by God to do so.
I’m not one of those liberals who thinks we need to find a way to coexist with religious crazies. You cannot debate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his band of deluded sadists into living peacefully with anyone who isn’t Salafi. There’s no way to dissuade a group which believes it’s on a mission from God to ready the world for the Second Coming. All you can try to do is stop them — by force.
Of course, war is always ugly. Killing is always a bad thing. But we cannot make the best the enemy of the good. In a perfect world, no one would have to go to war against religious extremists; the young sons and daughters of the working class wouldn’t be sent to safeguard democracy, namely the democratic values of liberty, equality and justice. Still, when a horde begins marching across the Middle East carrying Qu’rans in one hand and AK-47s in the other, promising to submit every person in every home to its singular divine law, pleading for pacifism is to be an accomplice to tyranny.
This war against Daesh isn’t a war against Muslim. It’s a war to keep religion from overrunning democracy. A person can believe whatever they want, but they have no right to impose their beliefs on anyone else. Islamic extremists want to impose their beliefs on their neighbors and everyone else — and they’re willing to kill anyone anywhere to do it. That’s why we should applaud the French planes dropping bombs on strategic targets in the Daesh-controlled territories of northern Syria.
The Western governments undoubtedly have their own motives for going to war in the Middle East. The United States and Europe are always looking to reestablish their hegemony around the world, and if they can do it while opening new markets and securing valuable resources, then all the better. (This point has been articulately by journalist Gearoid O’Colmain.) But war for profit and power is not what I’m advocating.
They’ve attacked Paris — twice in one year. Paris, one of the founding capitals of our modern democratic ideals (along with London and Edinburgh). But the armies of God have been attacking cities all around the world, or at least trying to. And, yes, an American was killed in the most recent attacks, an American who was also Latina. That’s merely coincidental; far more Arab Muslims have been killed by Islamic extremists, going back decades. The point is, groups like Daesh will kill anybody who doesn’t strictly adhere to their authority. They’ve proven that.
Daesh declared war on democracy long before this year’s Paris attacks, and it has been waging that war against the people of Iraq, Kurdistan and Syria for the past few years. Now the army of the Fifth Republic is bombing Daesh’s nominal capital city Dabiq to kingdom come.
Vive la France!
Hector Luis Alamo is a Chicago-based writer and the deputy editor at Latino Rebels. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.