French press review 17 April 2013
French newspapers seem uncertain how to deal with the Boston bomb attacks.
Le Monde is reduced to the chillingly obvious, with a main headline reading "Boston hit by bomb attack". The centrist paper points out that this is the first time since 11 September 2001 that Americans have died on American soil.
Three planned attacks have been foiled over the same period:
- Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to take explosives aboard a US flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009;
- Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad left a car-load of explosives in New York's Times Square in May 2010 but the detonator failed to work;
- In January 2011 a self-proclaimed "white supremacist," American, Kevin Harpham, tried to set off a bomb along the route of a civil rights march in Spokane.
What is significant about these cases is what they suggest about the perpetrator or perpetrators of Monday's attack.
Libération quotes James Forest, a terrorism specialist at the University of Massachusetts, as saying there are three possibilities: we're either looking at an act of international terrorism, in other words some form of jihadist action, or domestic terrorism. Forest points out that 15 April is the date for tax collection in the state of Massachusetts and is Patriots' Day in Boston, marking the first battles in the American war of independence.
Finally there's the possibility that Monday's attacks were the work of a "lone wolf", though the scale of the organisation of the Boston blasts would seem to suggest that more than one individual was involved.
Forest also points out that individual terrorists have, in the past, targeted public buildings rather than public events, with the significant exception of the explosion at Centennial Park, Atlanta, the main site of the Olympic Games in1996. Two people died in that atrocity, for which the fundamentalist Christian Robert Rudolph was finally found guilty.
Perhaps the type of explosive used in Boston, and the detonators, will narrow the search somewhat. Investigations are continuing.
A different mystery is exercising the editors of right-wing Le Figaro and business daily Les Echos. The question there is why does the French finance ministry insist that the national economy is going to grow over the next four years, when the Public Finance watchdog, directed by a former Socialist MP, is saying that recession is the most likely result of the current policy of increased direct taxation, simply because people have no spare money to spend.
Les Echos adds a further nail to the coffin of government hopes by reporting that the International Monetary Fund is also pessimistic about French growth prospects.
Against the government's predicted one tenth of one per cent, which is not exactly pushing the boat out, the IMF says, in fact, that recession is far more probable with growth likely to be negative. On prospects for 2014, there's a similar gulf between French government hopes and the IMF's more sober expectations.