In France, an Islamic terrorist has likely hijacked the agenda for the remainder of the French presidential race. That terrorist is 23-year-old Mohammed Merah, a Franco-Algerian from Toulouse who was fatally riddled with bullets by French forces last week after a 30-hour standoff and took the television remotes of an entire nation with him.
Because of Merah, an election fought on economic grounds has become dominated almost exclusively by national security. The extreme nationalist National Front party has used the incident to leverage its support of stricter immigration policy. Center-right French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to crack down on those who visit Internet "hate sites" and who spend ample French holiday time training for jihad overseas. The Socialist candidate has parlayed the situation into an opportunity to regale the electorate with homicide statistics.
Let's back up a bit. According to those who knew him and have been interviewed thus far, Mohammed Merah was a really nice guy -- smart, polite and well-spoken. His pastimes included making various trips to Afghanistan and to the Afghan-Pakistani border for some one-on-one time with jihadists, and stocking up on an international array of heavy artillery in the same way my grandmother collected miniature spoons -- all under the lightly watchful eye of French intelligence services, who claim that they even interviewed him once in the wake of a Club Med Islamic Jihad visit and were unconcerned about his activities because he handed them a USB key with tourist-like photos on it. While America gave Merah the side-eye and slapped him on a no-fly list, French intelligence was seduced by his innocuous photos of the world's foremost terror-tourism destinations.
But then this nice quiet kid assassinated three French soldiers of foreign origin in two separate incidents, followed a few days later by his killing of three kids and a rabbi at a Jewish school. He holed up inside his apartment while a French RAID team waited patiently outside for him, then escaped out a window where his expiration was facilitated. The end.
Except that it's not. Now, everyone wants to know why this happened, and how to prevent it from occurring again. But really, who cares why it happened? What does it really matter what was going on in this guy's head? Doesn't proper execution of security measures negate the need to delve into the sewer of his psyche?