War is the Health of the State

NORMANDY, France – Grim news. Many thanks to all friends and readers who wondered about our safety on Friday.

As it happened, news of the Paris massacre got to the homeland faster than it got to us. We were already driving out of town when the terrorists attacked. We did not find out about it until we checked in on the markets.

“Paris attacks” were blamed for a 203-point drop for the Dow, we discovered. Later, we read the details. The War on Terror is in its 14th year. There is no sign of victory for either side.

And now we see the familiar pattern. The body count went up. The flags went down. The fever mounts.

 

The_French_flag_flies_at_The French flag flies at half-mast above the Grand Palais

Photo via Reuters

 

“We shouldn’t have let them into our country,” said an outraged neighbor.

“Who?”

“Muslims. They want to kill us. Their religion tells them to do it. We have to defend ourselves. But President Hollande only talks of war. He doesn’t make war.”

“War is the health of the state,” wrote Randolph Bourne. Today, French shoulders slump and hearts ache. But the French feds have rarely felt better: France is at war.

Hollande last made international news by sneaking out of the presidential mansion on a motor scooter to visit his mistress. Now, he’s able to strike a more leader-like pose.

 

hollande02_3502285bA stern-looking Hollande behind the lectern promises more war

Photo credit: Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

 

He has declared a “merciless” war against terrorists and has called out a further 1,000 soldiers to patrol Paris and its suburbs. (There are now about 5,000 soldiers in total on patrol in the capital.)

Paris is locked down. Borders are secured (although one of the terrorists apparently got through to Belgium). And then France’s war planes were started up and sent to bomb Raqqa, in northern Syria – the Islamic State stronghold where French security services believe the massacre was planned.

 

As Massacres Go, a Smallish Affair

As massacres go, the Paris massacre was a smallish affair. The My Lai Massacre, by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, left more than 350 Vietnamese men, women, and children dead. (Its chief perpetrator, Lt. William Calley, got three and a half years of house arrest for his role. Now, he lives in comfort in Atlanta, Georgia.)

 

CalleyLt. William Calley during his court martial in 1971 at Ft. Benning. Ordering the massacre of 350 unarmed men, women and children didn’t keep him from living a life of comfort after spending 3.5 years under “house arrest”.

Photo credit: Joe Holloway, Jr., / Associated Press

 

The Soviet secret police, the NKVD, massacred as many as 22,000 Poles in the Katyn Forest in 1940… supposedly to eliminate the Polish “intellectuals” who might oppose the Soviet occupation.

 

Katyn (1)In 1943, the German army discovered mass graves in the Katyn forest in Poland. NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria had proposed the murder of the entire Polish officer corps in March 1940, which the politburo and Stalin immediately approved. The Soviets later tried to pin the massacre on the Nazis, but failed.

Photo via rhein-zeitung.de

 

In 1944, a Waffen-SS company massacred 642 men, women, and children in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in Nazi-occupied France… including 205 children. The exact cause was never discovered.

 

Oradur-sur-glaneOradour-sur-Glane, where the Nazis massacred 642 defenseless men, women and children for reasons that have never become clear.

Photo via DPA

 

And in 1572, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, in which French Catholic mobs cut down Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), produced about 3,000 corpses in Paris and as many as 70,000 across France.

 

The-Saint-Bartolomews-Day-Massacre-by-Fran+ºois-DuboisDepiction of the Bartholomew Day massacre (a.k.a. the Night of the Long Knives, although it actually lasted for a whole week) by Francois Dubois. Paris is no stranger to religiously inspired mass killings, and this one was the biggest by far, with between 2,000 to 3,000 killed in Paris alone and many thousands more in the provinces across France. Good Catholics did the deed in this case – click to enlarge.

Illustration by François Dubois

 

Pope Gregory XIII was delighted. He had three frescoes painted in the Sala Regina in the Vatican to commemorate the great event. The room is now closed to the public.

 

popegregoryxiiiPope Gregory XIII, waving blessings in the general direction of the true believers. Huguenots not included. In 1582 he tried to make up for his ungodly burst of delight at the mass-murder in France, by profitably fiddling with the calendar.

Photo via dominicselwood.com

 

Sometimes Bad, Sometimes Good

What leads people to massacre one another? What sets them off? Envy, hatred, fear – the usual base emotions?

Psychologists blamed the My Lai Massacre on “prolonged fear.” It supposedly caused American soldiers to crack up.

The Catholic violence against the Huguenots in France was part of the religious wars that rocked Europe in the 16th century. But the Catholic mob was stirred to action, according to some accounts, by particular circumstances: Harvests had been poor. Food was expensive. Taxes were heavy.

And there, in their midst, were rich Protestants in all their finery, who had come to celebrate the marriage of Margaret of Valois, sister of Charles IX, to Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot.

 

weddingFile under royal weddings gone bad: A painting by Edmond Lechevallier, showing The Wedding of Henri de Bourbon, King of Navarre, to Marguerite de Valois in the presence of Catherine de Medici and Charles IX.

Painting by Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard

 

Our Diary dictum: People are sometimes bad and sometimes good, but always subject to influence. War, as near as we can tell, is always a dangerous influence.

 

Debat-Ponsan-matin-LouvreOne morning at the gates of the Louvre by Edouard Debat-Ponsan. The figure in black surveying the results of the massacre is Catherine de Medici, who was the regent of France during the childhood of Charles IX. She tried to defuse the War of Religion at first, but ultimately failed. When an assassination attempt on Huguenot general Coligny in Paris at the time of the wedding failed, she and Charles decided it would be best to kill all the Huguenot leaders as long as they were within easy reach, before they would get the chance to avenge Coligny.

Painting by Édouard Debat-Ponsan

 

Image captions by PT

 

The above article originally appeared as “As Massacres Go, the Paris Attacks Were a Smallish Affair” at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

 

 

 

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