BY KELLY COGSWELL |I’ve been trying to write a piece about Paris since the attacks happened here 10 days ago. I’m not sure what I can add. Or if I should. Silence is underrated. Especially these days when even the posts by people who lost sisters or brothers or lovers begin to sound the same, but somehow still get you in the guts.
Then, of course, there is the “if only” brigade. “If only the crowd had been armed,” said Donald Trump. “If only the French government hadn’t been involved in Syria,” said, it seemed, everybody on the left. Both are sure that the actions or inactions of France and other big Western powers somehow pushed the terrorists to do it.
No matter that the (minimal) French role in Syria and elsewhere seemed like an afterthought in ISIS’ post-attack statement. Their obsession with Paris was in its role as “the capital of prostitution and vice.” Instructively, the cafés and concert hall they chose to attack had nothing to do with the heavy-handed power of the French state, and everything to do with a neighborhood in which genders, races, and religions mix.
Which means the attacks on Paris were not a reprise of 9/11, but more of a continuation of the Islamic State’s own campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Or attacks by Boko Haram in West Africa, where the real issue is often the refusal of other Muslims to embrace extremist strains of their religion marked by the literal enslavement and rape of women and the spectacle of tossing gay men off of cliffs.
If we insist on talking about foreign meddling, let us at least mention how Saudi money finances extremist mosques in places like Molenbeek, Belgium, nurturing the likes of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, presumed mastermind of the Paris attacks. The guy looks so fucking happy to be holding a gun in all the snapshots on the news, and positively ecstatic in that video shot in Syria where he got to kill a bunch of rival Muslims, then drag them behind his truck.
Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.