Secretary of State John Kerry believes that the terrorist attacks in Paris last week are a more demonstrable assault on Western society than the massacre of Charlie Hebdo writers that took place in January.
Kerry made the distinction while addressing U.S. embassy staff in Paris Tuesday. “There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” he said. “There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of — not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, ‘Okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.’ This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people.”
Kerry’s comments reflect the discomfort with Charlie Hebdo’s satirizing of Islam that led left-leaning writers to criticize the magazine after two men affiliated with al-Qaeda murdered most of its editorial team. But they are at odds with his remarks in the immediate aftermath of that attack.
“I agree with the French imam who today called the slain journalists martyrs for liberty,” Kerry said in January. “Today’s murders are part of a larger confrontation, not between civilizations — no — but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world. . . . Today, tomorrow, in Paris, in France, or across the world, the freedom of expression that this magazine — no matter what your feelings were about it — the freedom of expression that it represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror.”
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On Tuesday, Kerry reserved that sentiment for the victims of the coordinated attacks that left 129 dead in Paris last week.
“It was to attack everything that we do stand for,” Kerry said. “That’s not an exaggeration. It was to assault all sense of nationhood and nation-state and rule of law and decency, dignity, and just put fear into the community and say, “Here we are.” And for what? What’s the platform? What’s the grievance? That we’re not who they are? They kill people because of who they are and they kill people because of what they believe. And it’s indiscriminate.”
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.