Summer Savings! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.

Op-Eds

News Opinion Op-Eds

Terrorist hijacks French elections

In France, an Islamic terrorist has likely hijacked the agenda for the remainder of the French presidential race. That terrorist is 23-year-old Mohammed Merah, a Franco-Algerian from Toulouse who was fatally riddled with bullets by French forces last week after a 30-hour standoff and took the television remotes of an entire nation with him.

Because of Mr. Merah, an election fought on economic grounds has become dominated almost exclusively by national security. The extreme nationalist National Front party has used the incident to leverage its support of stricter immigration policy. Center-right French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to crack down on those who visit Internet "hate sites" and who spend ample French holiday time training for jihad overseas. The Socialist candidate has parlayed the situation into an opportunity to regale the electorate with homicide statistics.

Let's back up a bit. According to those who knew him and have been interviewed thus far, Mohammed Merah was a really nice guy -- smart, polite and well-spoken. His pastimes included making various trips to Afghanistan and to the Afghan-Pakistani border for some one-on-one time with jihadists, and stocking up on an international array of heavy artillery in the same way my grandmother collected miniature spoons -- all under the lightly watchful eye of French intelligence services, who claim that they even interviewed him once in the wake of a Club Med Islamic Jihad visit and were unconcerned about his activities because he handed them a USB key with tourist-like photos on it. While America gave Mr. Merah the side-eye and slapped him on a no-fly list, French intelligence was seduced by his innocuous photos of the world's foremost terror-tourism destinations.

But then this nice, quiet kid assassinated three French soldiers of foreign origin in two separate incidents, followed a few days later by his killing of three kids and a rabbi at a Jewish school. He holed up inside his apartment while a French RAID team waited patiently outside for him, then escaped out a window, where his expiration was facilitated. The end.

Except that it's not. Now, everyone wants to know why this happened, and how to prevent it from occurring again. But really, who cares why it happened? What does it really matter what was going on in this guy's head? Doesn't proper execution of security measures negate the need to delve into the sewer of his psyche?

Unlike all the little old ladies groped at airports worldwide, Mr. Merah fit a certain profile -- a profile so obvious that I shouldn't need to elaborate on the details. Not that all people of Mr. Merah's profile should be subject to undue harassment, but those who fit such a profile and make the same holiday-destination choices really ought to be. How about starting there? And if security services were blindingly dazzled and distracted by his winning personality, or by a slideshow of him making thumbs-up signs in front of various piles of sand, then we have a serious problem.

We're constantly told that everyone must be subjected to scrutiny because terrorism, in adapting to stay ahead of security measures, will evolve to be practiced by those who are a far cry from Mr. Merah's profile. Can we maybe focus first on nabbing the guys who fit the profile perfectly? Because evidently, they're still slipping through the cracks. Once that's perfected, then maybe it will be time to move on to protecting the public from scenarios representing an eventual danger in Fantasyland.

Mr. Merah had reportedly done jail time for robbery convictions, during which he may have become radicalized when he came into contact with Islamic fanatics. Again, does it really matter if he got his nutty ideas from prison, a comic book, or an imagined image that appeared to him on a slice of burned toast?

The average person with an adequately formed conscience can be bombarded with all sorts of loony ideas and respond with, "Wow, that's whack!" or "Shove it!" -- even people who spend time in jail surrounded by other crazies. I don't care how or where these lunatics end up getting their inspiration. I just expect that should they choose to express their inspiration on a canvas of violence, we can rely on the authorities to deploy their accrued wisdom to pre-empt any damage.

There are two things in Europe that could be seen at night from space until last week: Belgium, and Mohammed Merah's warning signs. We don't need more or bigger laws; we just need people doing their jobs with the ones that already exist.

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host who writes regularly for major publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her new book, "American Bombshell: A Tale of Domestic and International Invasion," is available through Amazon.com. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Planned Parenthood attack part of political agenda

    Planned Parenthood attack part of political agenda

    Planned Parenthood is the most trusted women's health care provider in this country. Approximately one in five women in the United States has relied on a Planned Parenthood health center for care in her lifetime. At Planned Parenthood, nothing is more important to us than the health and safety...

  • Overcoming the confidence gap

    Overcoming the confidence gap

    When I was sent the link to a Baltimore Sun article about four local girls making the U.S. national Under-19 lacrosse team, I was eager to read it. After all, I had played on that same team 16 years ago, and one of my own students is on the team. So I opened the link, read the first sentence, and...

  • Encouraging innovation in Md.

    Encouraging innovation in Md.

    A recent Kauffman Foundation study found that year-over-year startup activity in the U.S. increased in 2015 for the first time in five years and showed the largest increase in more than 20 years. This is particularly good news from an employment perspective because new firms create the vast majority...

  • Pathways, not fences, for Baltimore's homeless

    Pathways, not fences, for Baltimore's homeless

    Earlier this month, I drove past the newly constructed fence located at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Franklin Street. The fence was erected to keep out the dozens of homeless people who had staked out a tiny piece of land there that they could call home. The city removed them...

  • The statinization of America

    The statinization of America

    Anyone who wants to know why medical costs continue to skyrocket needs only to look at the paper published in the July 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined the "cost-effectiveness" of increasing statin use. The article described a computer simulation that modeled...

  • Summer camp turns into trauma center in Baltimore

    Summer camp turns into trauma center in Baltimore

    Since the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimoreans have worked to address the underlying problems associated with the civil unrest. While city leaders look for solutions, Baltimore's children are bearing the brunt of the heightened turbulence.

Comments
Loading

81°