Wednesday, November 09, 2005

France's Katrina?

Jeff Palkot from Fox News has been covering the French riots from the beginning and he's made a couple of interesting comparisons. He has been based out of France for a long time, so he knows the people and the areas well. He sees this as the French government screw-up and he compares the situation to not only Iraq, but our own disaster, Hurricane Katrina.
Last Wednesday night as we drove around the outskirts of Paris, a half hour from “home,” it looked like nothing short of Baghdad — burning cars and trucks littering the sides of the road. Lines of riot police ready to do battle with insurgents ... I mean angry French mobs...
Then in broad daylight, as I was doing a live shot in the town of Bobigny, five miles from Paris, a courthouse 200 yards away went up in smoke. I haven’t had that kind of “real time” illustration of badness since a car bomb blew up during a live shot in Baghdad, forcing me to do an on-air gulp seen ‘round the world.'
Here is the biggest comparison he makes and that is to Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Personally, I think he's spot on.
French authorities (read that, FEMA) had a whole lot of advance warning of what was going to happen. Over the past 30 years a huge immigrant and descendant population of Muslims and Africans has been building in this country. France promises them equal opportunities, then dumps them in ghettos outside their glossy city centers. It offers them little chance for jobs or much-heralded integration. The French “suburbs” have been ticking time bombs for years. Is it a surprise that they are exploding now?

Then, French authorities were remarkably slow in realizing they had a national catastrophe on their hands. It took until Day 11 for President Jacques Chirac to step foot outside the Elysee Palace and say law and order must be restored. Even President Bush got down to New Orleans five days after Katrina hit.
He goes on to talk about what the French government has and has not done for the people in these poor areas. Then he talks about whether it really is an Islamist issue and if this is a Christian versus Muslim situation.
The rioters are more motivated by joblessness, crummy schools and heavy-handed police tactics than messages from Usama bin Laden in a cave on the Pakistan border. But the rioters are predominantly Muslim. They come from ghettos that are breeding grounds for jihadis ready to do battle in Iraq, Afghanistan and closer to home.

If they take their cues from anyone, it's from Muslim youth leaders to whom the French government is turning. And just to heighten the religious tone to this whole thing, the umbrella Muslim body in France has just issued a Fatwa (luckily) AGAINST the violence.

That’s why this whole thing is more serious than France fixing up a few dozen community centers with table soccer equipment.
Greg was sneared at by the French press when he compared the riot situation to Baghdad, but he was proved to be right more right than they wanted when the French police found that molotov cocktail-making factory south of Paris. He questions if maybe this isn't just kids in back street slums? He finds it interesting that the French government really didn't push for stopping the riots until the riots came into Paris proper. Then Greg goes on to finish with two observations.
The relatively thin coverage by the French media of the riots — one of France’s equivalents to Time Magazine devoted only four pages to the troubles Monday. Time itself devoted six! Compare that to the wall-to-wall (concealed glee) coverage of Katrina, and it makes you wonder. Does France really want to come to terms with all of this?

And … hey, my stays in France were supposed to be filled with relatively less taxing assignments than I get in places like Baghdad and Kabul. Don’t you just hate it when THEY’re fighting THERE and they’re fighting HERE, as well?

C’est la vie.
The article is much more extensive and interesting and can be found here on the Fox News website.

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