by John Gibson
The hashtag campaign #jesuischarlie is sweet. The worldwide solidarity with the murdered cartoonist is uplifting.
The idea that a man with a pen wins over a man with a gun is true in a general sense, the idea that freedom of speech and expression will conquer ignorance and hate. Eventually.
But on any given day a man with a gun will beat a man with a pen every single time, as we saw yesterday in Paris… unless the man with the pen also has a man with a gun.
If we really want to protect the man with the pen…and I do…we have to consider what went on in Paris before the men with the guns attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the defiant satire magazine.
The two suspects, brothers, were being tracked by the French security services. But as we now see, keeping an eye on possible terrorists is not enough. Somehow the two brothers who committed this outrage obtained assault weapons, and evidently had quasi military training or experience. If either factor were know to French security authorities, the question naturally arises: why were they not in a cell undergoing interrogations, or charged with crimes, or both?
We have the same problem in the United States. We have been told as recently as last November that the U.S. now is home to at least 100 young men who have returned to America after fighting with ISIS, and we have been told that we–the FBI mainly–are watching them.
That is not good enough. Not now. Not after we’ve seen what happened in Paris when the official stance on people who have demonstrated their jihadism is “watch and wait.” That policy killed ten civilians and two police officers.
Wouldn’t “Je suis Charlie” be more useful to all of us who aren’t murderous jihadis if it were more like “Je suis Cheney”?
Yes we should stand for freedom of expression. Actually, we should go on a campaign of free expression run-riot as part of our self defense. We should be publishing ever more outrageous cartoons. We need to flush out the people who are moved to terrorism by cartoons that mock the prophet Mohammed. We need to know who they are and we know they cannot restrain themselves from expressing outrage and issuing threats when criticism of the Prophet is published. Good. Do more. Do it now. Find out who these people are. The sooner the better.
But we also need something else. We need new laws in this country which allow our authorities to arrest, detain, and interrogate –even imprison indefinitely–people who have returned from ISIS fighting, or who are harboring ISIS-like tendencies here at home, even if those persons have not left the country to engage in jihadi fighting overseas.
I know that putting the stink of the name “Cheney” on such an idea will make the #jesuischarlie crowd recoil in horror. But if they are honestly and sincerely standing in solidarity with the murdered cartoonists they should think of the next group of cartoonists. Charlie Hebdo is planning to print a million copies of the next edition, five times the normal print run. What about the surviving staff? Are you really standing with Charlie? Are you really in solidarity with free expression?
If so, will you stand for doing something other than lighting candles, holding signs and marching through the streets?
These are hard decisions for hard times.
Show some spine.