I’m sat at my desk, hugely overtired. I’m overtired because, last night, at 20:30 UK time, bombs went off at the Stade de France, where France were playing Germany. What followed has become one of the worst terrorist attacks in French history and has shaken not just France, but the world. A shooting followed at the Petit Cambodge restaurant. Later, over 100 hostages were taken at the Bataclan Theatre, where people had been attending a rock concert. The French Police, not waiting for the military to arrive, stormed the venue, killing the two terrorists inside, but not before over 80 hostages were killed by what is thought to have been the terrorists’ suicide belts detonating and grenades being thrown. So I sat in bed last night, watching the news unfold on my iPad as Sky News broadcast it.
There are plenty of places where you can find what we know so far, but I’m going to give the most important points.
- As of 12:13, David Cameron has said that we must be prepared for British casualties.
- Islamic State has officially claimed responsibility.
- The death toll is currently estimated at 127.
- Weapons used were automatic rifles-typical of terrorist use. However, there are reports that a pistol was also used at the restaurant. This strikes me as an unusual weapon for an extremist to use, considering that their objective would have been to kill as many people as possible, thus drawing maximum media attention.
- François Hollande announced that IS were responsible for the attacks BEFORE Islamic State confirmed it themselves.
- A state of emergency is still in place, meaning that most public spaces are shut down and there is an extreme military and police presence throughout the city.
- At least one attacker is still at large. No arrests have been made.
- France’s borders have been closed
Now that you have heard the actual news, that you can read everywhere on the internet, you can hear my thoughts. The frequency of acts of terror has caused compassion fatigue. Every time there is an attack, our empathy, our compassion, is diminished as they become normality. To understand this, imagine a world where there was an attack every day. We couldn’t mourn or be sad every day. It would all be limited. That’s what’s happening now in a less extreme scale. When things happen more and more often, they become normality. And when its normality, when we get used to it, we can no longer be as compassionate. We are no longer as shocked, because the same sort of things have happened in the past. There is the risk in the world we live in that the people killed become numbers. Figures. Statistics. It’s hard to comprehend, when you hear that 127 people have been killed, what that actually means. I’ve always thought the best way to visualise a number of people in the hundreds is to think of my School’s assembly hall. I know how many people can fit in there, and so I know roughly what 127 people looks like. And when I think that that amount of people died last night, I feel sick.
I feel sick because these are people like you and I. Who had lives, jobs, children, wives, husbands, friends, family. They had everything we have. And all of it has been taken away from them. They won’t have thought about what they said last to their friends and family. It may have been a kiss and a goodbye before leaving. And that’s all the friends and family of those killed are left with. These were innocent people. People who wanted to enjoy a sport that they loved, or eat delicious food at a restaurant, or listen to some great music at a rock concert. Instead, they were killed last night in Paris.
Now, onto what has to be done, to prevent these attacks just becoming normality. Why do people do these things? Why do people decide that what they want to do with their lives is end other people’s lives. Why? It seems an impossible question to answer, but, for the sake of my blog, I shall attempt to. Behind most actions, there is an inspiration. The action here is attacking the people in Paris. And the inspiration is Islamic State. Its something that unites people. And they are, whether deliberately or not, at war with the west. The actions were described as “acts of war” by Hollande, and “as an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity” by President Obama. This is all very well, but the same is said after all acts of terrorism. It’s all about votes. I hope I don’t come across as a communist; democracy is the way to run all countries and communism needs to become a thing of the past. But, the one major flaw with all forms of democracy is leaders are scared of how their actions will affect their chances of winning the next election. As Obama decides how his nation is going to react, the US presidential election will be in the back of his mind. Cameron will be worried about how Tony Blair’s reputation was destroyed when he invaded Iraq. I’m not suggesting Britain puts a massive number of troops on the ground. But when there is a global threat to security where an organized group are waging war with “humanity”, it no longer becomes about votes. It becomes about the security of the people. The safety of the people who voted these leaders into positions of power.
So, if politicians decide that actually, now is the time to act, what should they be doing? Well, British politicians first need to get it out of their heads that the RAF will win a war. Bombers, fast jets and drones are a massive asset and have evolved into a tool essential to any successful military campaign. But they won’t win anything alone. I’m not suggesting that tomorrow, Cameron announces that thousands of British troops will deploy to fight Islamic State. But the inspiration for these acts isn’t going to go away voluntarily. MI5 can find suspected extremists. Police can arrest said extremists. But that’s not going to stop young people being radicalized. That’s not going to stop people leaving to UK to fight. That’s not going to stop Syria becoming a training ground for people who may return home, radicalized and with a hatred for the West. The inspiration has to be destroyed at source. The events in Paris have reminded us of that. The inspiration is Islamic State. And whilst that can’t be destroyed overnight, it also can’t be destroyed with planes and words.