Vowing ‘Merciless Response’ France Bombs Raqqa

A French fighter jet prepares to launch from an airbase in the United Arab Emirates. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

As the French government launches a major retaliatory bombing campaign against the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa, observers warn that President François Hollande is taking a page from the widely discredited playbook of former American President George W. Bush.

“France is at war,” Hollande declared Monday in an address to Parliament, in which he called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the series of attacks Friday in Paris that killed at least 129 people.

The statement came just hours after France—assisted by the United States—launched its largest-yet bombing campaign against Raqqa, which is home to an estimated 200,000 people. The French Defense Ministry said its aircraft dropped 20 bombs on what it described as military targets. However, the Syrian organization Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which documents the brutality of ISIS, reported that France has also bombed a soccer stadium, hospital, museum, and government building.

“The French air strikes are targeting a crowded, large city,” said Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, in an interview with Common Dreams. “The fact that ISIS has claimed it as its capital does not change the fact that this is a city of ordinary people. It is hard to imagine that there can be this kind of heavy duty bombing and not have significant casualties and destruction of the city.”

Raqqa residents have already endured bombings by the U.S., Russian, Syrian, and French air forces, as well as the brutality of the Islamic State. Khaled al-Homsi, a Palmyra-based activist and nephew of the Syrian archaeologist Khalid al-Asaad who was beheaded by ISIS in August, turned to social media to call for the protection of civilians.

Hollande’s government has been bombing territories in Iraq since September 2014, and over the past two months has launched a handful of airstrikes in Syria, including a smaller attack in Raqqa on October. But Sunday night’s bombing appears to be France’s most extensive yet since it joined the U.S.-led coalition.

Both U.S. and French officials said that American forces backed Sunday’s attack by helping them identify alleged targets, in what are euphemistically referred to as “strike packages.” Meanwhile, President Barack Obama appears to be encouraging France to take military action, vowing cooperation and calling the Paris massacre an “attack on the civilized world.”

ISIS is claiming responsibility for Friday’s attacks in Paris, as well as for another deadly bombing of a Beirut neighborhood that killed at least 43 people. And in Baghdad on Friday, a suicide bomber killed at least 18 people at a funeral, with no immediate claim of responsibility.

In the wake of the Paris attack, Hollande vowed to be “merciless” in going after those responsible. “What happened last night in Paris, and in Saint Denis by the Stade de France, is an act of war,” he said on Saturday. “France, because it was attacked cowardly, shamelessly, violently, France will be merciless against the barbarians of Daesh.”

However, numerous experts, including Vijay Prashad, a professor of international studies at Trinity College, say this kind of rhetoric—and the escalation it threatens—is incredibly dangerous.

“There is a call to do ‘something’ and there is a need to be ‘strong’—otherwise one will lose electoral support,” Prashad told Common Dreams. “But this something and this strong are clichés—in that, the same action is taken each time, namely bombing runs against some part of the world.”

“We all know that these bombing runs, over the past fifteen years, have not been able to undermine the forces of al-Qaeda and later ISIS, but they have created instability which advantages ISIS, and—because of civilian casualties—given ISIS the kind of propaganda coup it requires to attract new recruits,” Prashad continued.

Bennis agreed, warning: “The French seem to be channeling George W. Bush in how to respond to terrorists, taking the position that this is an act of war, and we will have ‘merciless’ war. But terrorism survives wars.”

Many within French civil society are sounding the alarm, including the social movement organization Attac.

“‘France is at war,’ we are told,” the group declared in a statement released Sunday. “But this is not our war: after the American disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan, the current French interventions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Mali, Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, contribute to destabilizing these regions and trigger the departure of migrants who face Fortress Europe and whose bodies are washed up on our beaches.”

“Be careful where you step”: for a Palestinian child

Originally posted on Eléctrica in the Desert:

I lived as best I could, and then I died.

Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

M.Burch, “Epitaph for a Palestinian Child”


They opened the door with a ram.
They took us from the house
and fired shots at my family.

They killed my mother and four sisters,

my father and my brother’s son .
Then all my brothers were found and shot.

I stood still. I could not move.
My whole family was dead.

They lay there under rubble for sixteen days

Who will teach me now?

Where can I go?


Author’s name withheld, age 13

From Child Poets of Gaza, M. Burch, Editor,


“The most important message you get from your superiors in the Israeli military is that every Palestinian needs to feel Israel is at the back of their neck. So, quickly, you adapt to the environment; you don’t see the Palestinian in front of you as…

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Yolanda Baltimore and the King of Michigan

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Yolanda Baltimore and the King of Michigan / Claire O’Brien 2015

Five minutes after Yolanda Baltimore’s escape, everyone inside the Detroit Emergency Management Camp knew that she had not only spotted the sign on time, but had also displayed a spectacular, even singular finesse, the like of which may well not be seen again

Hearts soared with hope and pride. That Yolanda.


They could not have asked for a stronger sign. The sky brimmed over with the brightest stars anyone had ever dreamed. Immediately, over 500,000 people began moving outward from the center of Detoit. This movement was so intensely focused, so controlled, so slow and so impossibly quiet that it was almost impossible to see. At least that’s what the government observers who were supposed to be monitoring the Camp’s massive NSA security system kept reporting, until officers threatened to throw the next guard who “just couldn’t see right” down an open mine shaft into Camp Appalachia.


Alicia Evans-Gonzalez prepared to step into the flow of people from her position in a crumbling doorway in Section Nine, where she’d been pretending to nod off on the low-grade heroin that managed to make it past the machine guns, razor wire and drone attacks when bread and milk could not. The United North American Home Security Forces had no idea that actually, only a handful of people in the Detroit City Concentration Camp continued to use heroin. That meant 8,000 troops the UNAHSF didn’t know about.

Evans-Gonzales scratched herself convincingly, then lowered herself with one brief twist into the passing stream.

Ten seconds later, she had disappeared.


“We had no doubt we would win. We knew we would win” Evans-Gonzalez told her grandson, DeRay twenty years later as the two worked together at the 15th George Jackson Memorial Apple Harvest. “We just knew. We’d been preparing ourselves every moment, from that first morning we woke up to find the city surrounded by razor wire, electric fences and gun towers, attack dogs patrolling and helicopters buzzing overhead – right up to the night of Yolanda’s escape.”

Evans-Gonzales bit into a big Yellow Delicious apple.

“Well, of course we’d actually been preparing for generations,” she corrected herself as she chewed.

“But why didn’t you send a grown-up?” asked Deray, who thought of himself as twelve years old. Actually, he had just turned eleven.

“An adult wouldn’t have stood a chance. Believe me, we tried,”  Evans-Gonzalez replied. “Six lives were lost before the People agreed that our only hope lay in the kind of person the guards had always ignored: a little girl.”

DeRay nodded.

“Sometimes we make everyone a king,” he said.

His grandmother smiled.




Yolanda had crossed the Buffer Zone,  a mile and a half of flattened rubble encircled by a high fence. Several times she had laid down flat at the approach of a helicoptor, but the searchlights had swept the sky, not the ground below, and she had felt very glad to be a small girl.

Now Yolanda stood very still, looking through the fence and standing free. Evening had just fallen, and it had begun to rain. She had nearly arrived at her destination, a small garage at the end of a one-way street, and had begun peering about sharply for the message she had retrieved in dozens of dreams over many months.

Yolanda was eight years old. The world was wet, but not dark – the impossible stars were almost too bright to know what to do with themselves. But the fence was very high. Yolanda might have been afraid, but then she wasn’t – how could she be? she asked herself.


We dreamed that Yolanda could fly

For surrounding her as far as anyone could  possibly imagine, in every direction were the People, stretching out to her from the prison that could never hold them, from across the country, across the skies, across the oceans and across the centuries. There were the living, of course, as well as the people still to come. She did not know about other people’s ancestors, but as for her own, Yolanda Baltimore’s ancestors were here, right here – and they left no question about it.

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Please click on the link above. It’s a contribution from Eddie Star at http://eddiestarblog.wordpress.com

Check out Mr.Star’s blog!


My Uncle Bill

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 Of one thing I am certain. I shall never catch a fish. Nevertheless, I think I have some understanding of what it was that bound the boy and his uncle so many years ago on summer evenings when the fish were biting.

Perhaps it was the stillness of green light reflecting trees and sky, or maybe the sound of water rushing over rocks, where they waded out and found firm footing.



Talk of social injustice would have scared the fish away. The boy laid down his sword and shield, down by the riverside.


Originally posted on Eléctrica in the Desert:


____EXCLUSIVE  BY CLAIRE O’BRIEN___________________

First published on Latina Lista by Claire O’Brien at  

  At my school, the students created a gigantic number 43, each candle symbolizing a missing student, so that anybody from the sky — the UFOs, the airplanes, God, perhaps? —  could see and understand the sorrow that the Mexican students are dwelling with. Maybe now the people  will understand why it rains: even the sky is crying .”

Valerie Rodarte,  Mexican university student



A street of small adobe houses runs through a middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of a Mexican city. It looks peaceful enough at first glance.

But those who live there know better.

To residents who have gazed at the street over time, the signs of a neighborhood transformed by seven years of horrific violence are clear. A big iron gate blocks off the entrance, and…

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