And The River Foamed Red With Blood
Is there anything more to say at this point? The story by now is certainly a familiar one. Today, in the early hours of the morning, two assailants stormed a church in Rouen during Mass and took the congregation hostage. The priest, an elderly man in his eighties, was beheaded and a nun was stabbed and remains in critical condition. This was only the most recent in a string of terrorist incidents that has befallen Europe in the past eleven days (not to mention a pair of suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Mogadishu as well); a beheading in Rouen, a machete attack on a pregnant woman in Reutlingen, a rampage with an ax on a train in Wuerzburg, a suicide bombing of a wine bar in Ansbach, and a truck plowed into celebrants on Bastille Day in Nice. What words are there to describe these eleven days of death and terror that have not already been said before?
We can start with this harsh but necessary truth: we are losing. Whatever gains have been made on the fight against ISIS on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria clearly this has not greatly hindered their ability to inspire their disciples here in the West to carry out acts of murder and violence in their name.
There has been no shortage of public officially soothingly insisting that all this is but a symptom of the Islamic State’s imminent destruction, a dead cat bounce that shall soon recede, but that is to ignore the most ominous omen of all from these terrible past few days: ISIS and their ilk seem to have finally realized the great and terrible truth we have hoped in vain they would never learn. Our intelligence and security services have grown ever more effective at identifying and foiling plots to attack high profile targets that would result in truly mass casualties, the kind of operations that require extensive planning amongst numerous participants; there has been nothing on the scale of 9/11 repeated in recent years. However, attacks on a smaller scale, against softer targets like a nightclub or a bistro or a crowded street on a national holiday, are simply impossible to stop. There are too many potential targets. There are too many potential terrorists (one of the assailants today was under surveillance and wearing a monitoring bracelet – he still managed to carry out his part in these horrible events).
Another harsh truth is that this deplorable situation has only been made worse by Europe’s inept and mishandled response to the refugee crisis. One can remember a year ago when Angela Merkel threw open her country’s borders to the oncoming tide of migrants coming from across the Middle East, silencing all those who opposed her with the cry “We can do it”. Those who warned of the security implications of admitted untold numbers from a region awash with terrorism and anti-Western sentiment were dismissed as fear mongerers and closeted racists.
Now, with the knowledge that the Ansbach bomber was a Syrian migrant, and that one of the perpetrators of the beheading in Rouen had travelled to Syria, and that the actors who committed the butchery in Paris earlier this year had entered Europe via the migrant routes, these warnings seem merely prescient. So too do the warnings given to us nearly half a century ago by a British classicist and MP named Enoch Powell. He too was dismissed as a racist and a bigot in his day, when he warned us that mass and uncontrolled migration would lead to social segregation and instability. Now as we look upon recent events it is clear as crystal that his dire warnings were in fact not small minded intolerance but mere predictions of what was to come.
Powell also spared no words when it came to condemning the political class of his time, who he saw as passively standing by and doing nothing in the face of disaster as they saw this as preferable to “grasping the poisoned nettles” as would be required were they to take action. His words would be true today as well, as we observe our political leadership standing by in helplessness as our world descends into chaos because to do otherwise would require them to abandon the illusions that have governed their philosophy for all of their adult lives.
This can no longer stand. Something must be done. This horrible state of affairs is not something that we simply must come to live with, as the Prime Minister of France rather bluntly stated recently. If that is the mindset we take then this war is already lost. It is not, as Huntington theorized, a clash between civilizations but rather a clash between a civilization that has been forgotten and another that has been willfully destroyed. If anything is to be salvaged, then it begins with acknowledging this basic truth.
If we do not, then like the Roman I see the River Tiber foaming red with much blood.