Paris Police Attack

This one is eerily similar to the one on Orly airport. To the point where I had to do a double-take on the news, and then a triple-take, to make sure the facts were somewhat clear. [stderr]

A man who killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees Thursday night was known to French security services and had shot and wounded an officer in the past… [cnn]

The suspect, who was shot dead by French police, was on the radar of the French domestic security service DGSI, the source said.

The shooting happened about 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) when a car stopped at 102 Champs-Elysees in front of a police van, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said.
A man emerged from the car and opened fire on the van with an “automatic weapon,” killing one officer instantly, he said. The man “then ran away, managing to shoot and wound two other policemen. Other policemen engaged and shot and killed the attacker,” Brandet said.

The man was a French national who shot two officers in 2001 after being stopped by a police car, [sources] said. He was taken into custody but while being questioned grabbed another officer’s gun and shot him three times. He was convicted in that attack and had a criminal record because of involvement in violent robberies, the source said.

As I mentioned before: this is a bad feedback loop. [stderr] Terrorists/insurgents aren’t stupid – and most of all, many anti-terrorism strategies assume they aren’t creative. “The way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” means you’re bringing guns to a place where you’ve decided you don’t want guns. If you’re dealing with people who don’t like cops, having cops walking around armed simply makes them targets.

The De Lattre Line: 1 post every kilometer the entire length of the Red River Delta (1500km) – Build that wall!

The next response, I fear, will be closing the borders or “uparmoring” police – having them sitting around in armored vehicles (ripe for stealing!) – or pillboxes. Inevitably, we wind up thinking of the Maginot Line, but most of us have forgotten the De Lattre Line – a French attempt to keep insurgents out of a country.[wikipedia] The French have a genocidal and failed history of counter-insurgency just like the US. (The helicopters leaving the roof of the American Embassy: that was our Dien Bien Phu)

France is not dealing with a domestic insurgency, of course, but they’re catching the fringes of an international one, based on the European powers’ actions (and the reactions to) the tail end of the colonial period. I find it amazing that people still blame islam and assert things like “Muslim Terrorists Were Always Motivated by Religion” [Anjuli Pandavar] when it seems pretty clear that politics – specifically, the European powers’ love of dividing the Middle East into cantonments and satrapies for their convenience – has something to do with it. Is the hatred engendered by this sort of thing religion or politics?



Short answer: it’s both! It’s politics, contextualized in religion, to make it more comprehensible for those on the receiving end. 1% of the world’s population are refugees. If even a tiny fraction of them turns hateful enough to get violent, you have a huge problem.

The French are about to elect a pocket fascist of their own, who is promising to double down on a failed strategy.

What if the result is that the insurgents double down on their successful strategy?

------ divider ------

I feel I need some disclaimers: I do not advocate or approve of violence. I think that, when it comes to terrorism/counter-terrorism, we need to understand it, otherwise we’re more likely to use violence to try to stop violence – which seldom works.

I would rather that nobody kill anyone. The policeman that was killed was a universe of hopes and relationships that ended and were crushed. So was the shooter.

Note: I re-ordered some of the extracts from the CNN article.

The next strategy will be to start mousetrapping police. Remember: the project of the insurgent is to separate the population from the government, by showing the government is unfair, heavy-handed, incompetent, and targeting their recruitment base. These attacks are right out of the playbook.


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    It is as if authoritarians, even when they hate and kill each other, are marching lock-step to take away our freedom.

    That said, I honestly wonder if an attempted murder* such as the one the shooter had committed, combined with a history of violence should result in a life sentence? I’m not in favour of long prison sentences overall, but for homicide, rape, torture and high-value financial crimes they might make sense. Death penalty, never.
    * = I don’t know the context of the 2001 shooting, so I’m not fully convinced that he should have received a life sentence anyway.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    The iconic photo of the helicopter with the last-minute passenger dangling from the landing skids was the last figurative train out of Saigon from an apartment building where US staff and local collaborators lived, not from the embassy proper.

  3. jrkrideau says

    @2 Pierce R. Butler
    What? I always thought it was the US embassy.

    And, come to think of it, never understood just how incompetent US diplomatic and military forces could have been to allow this.

    But I always thought it was the embassy roof.

  4. jrkrideau says

    A man who killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees
    Well, that does it! I am not going there for my holidays. It is far, far, too dangerous. I would never feel safe. It would be almost like visiting Detroit!

    I’m sticking to le 7e arrondissement where we are safe. Okay, perhaps the 5e or 6e also.

    No way I’m crossing that river. They are madmen over there.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    On further research, I may have mixed up the clinging-to-the-skids photo with another famous evacuating-Saigon-by-chopper-in-’75 pic. (The caption reads, “A US crewman helps people climb to a helicopter from atop a roof…” – but that guy looks a lot more like he’s pushing than he’s pulling…)

    After trying various search terms and clicking multiple likely-looking links, I have not had any luck in tracking down the image of that one man grabbing onto the skids of a copter lifting from a roof, whether of embassy or CIA-used apartment building. But the picture remains clear in my mind, and other people have always seemed to know what I meant when I talked about it (and nobody has known whether that last passenger managed to hold on for the whole ride to the aircraft carrier).

  6. says

    Well, that does it! I am not going there for my holidays. It is far, far, too dangerous. I would never feel safe. It would be almost like visiting Detroit!

    That’s one of the points about terrorism: our fear of it (usually!) is disproportionate. In general, rational people should be more afraid of falling down in their bathtub than terrorism. But they’re not. In the US, are you more likely to be shot by a cop than a terrorist? In Paris I’d be much more afraid of getting hit by a car in a roundabout than shot by a terrorist. As you say: people don’t worry about going to Detroit. They don’t even worry about going to New York. Terrorism depends on our inability to make good risk assessments.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 7: Are you thinking of the guy trying to hang onto the helicopter at An Loc?

    Nope, don’t think I’ve seen those before. There sure was a lot of panicked scrambling for copter rides back there and then…

    Another amazing air-evac story from that era concerned extracting a surrounded/under-fire batch of US troops (Marines?) from a hilltop. They could all, barely, fit into the helicopter – but weighed too much to lift up. The pilot (who later got a Medal of Honor, which is how I came to read of this), rather than order anybody off, gunned the engines and rolled straight forward over a cliff: once in the air, they just barely managed to stay that way, so the pilot got his medal pre-humously.

    My memory definitely involves an eggbeater taking off from an urban rooftop, with a man grabbing onto the camera-closest skid at the last decisecond, and frantically trying to secure his grip as the bird gained altitude. Am fairly sure this was not (just) a photo, but a clip of what hardly anybody at the time called video.

  8. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#9:
    There sure was a lot of panicked scrambling for copter rides back there and then…

    Considering what was coming, it was probably a good idea. The way the US left the people who served its regime – many of them to die – was pretty scandalous. We did the same in Iraq, of course.

    I don’t know about the marine/helicopter takeoff. Apparently that sort of desperation move was not that uncommon: Otto Skorzeny ordere a fiesler storch with himself, Mussolini, and its pilot to run off a cliff because they couldn’t get airborne on the ground. Given Skorzeny’s reputation, it’s probably a true story (there were a lot of witnesses)

  9. brunswick says

    Sadly, the commenality of the French terror attacks are:

    – Frenchmen

    – banileu’s

    – radicalized in prison.

    Funny that.

  10. says

    Funny that.

    It’s the underclass attacking the overclass’ institutions. That’s the opposite of what historically happens in the US, where the overclass is beating down the underclass.

    I should do a review of “La Haine” …