Voltaire Network
The strategy of fear

France: The “war on terror” makes its entrance into the presidential campaign

As clever manipulators of the media, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Parliament member Pierre Lellouche and anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière are using the “war on terror” as the main topic of the French presidential pre-campaign. State-run television channel France 3 and the press group of the French manufacturer of Dassault planes take part in staging the show.

| Paris (France)
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Pierre Lellouche, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jean-Louis Bruguière
(from left to right)

The Atlantist circles of the Union for a Popular Movement (UPM), the main party of the French right, currently in power, are developing the topic of the “war on terror” as their electoral argument in the French media, which are particularly benevolent with the above mentioned circles. The hypothesis of a possible Islamic attack of big magnitude in Paris burst into the French media scene, mainly benefiting two people: Pierre Lellouche, a UPM Parliament member for Paris and President of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, as well as Nicolas Sarkozy, French Interior Minister and UPM President.

On September 6, 2005, the public channel France 3 of the French television repeated a documentary that it had already broadcast in September 2002 entitled Terrorism, the nuclear threat (Terrorisme, la menace nucléaire) by Hesi Carmel, Jean-Marc Gonin and Richard Puech for France 3 and for the Capa agency. Jean-Marc Gonin is a journalist with the news daily Le Figaro and Richard Puech is a documentary maker who works for the Capa agency. For his part, Hesi Carmel is an independent Israeli journalist but also a former deputy director of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service. The documentary includes testimonies by US personalities, mainly Democrats, and specially that of former senator Sam Nunn, co-president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a very active organization that speaks of a terrorist threat of nuclear nature. The Nuclear Threat Initiative has organized several nuclear attack drills near the NATO headquarters [1].

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“Le Monde”, September 8, 2005 edition
The French daily asks itself how come there has not been any nuclear attack.

The documentary did not include anything new and it had provoked different reactions in the French media when it was first broadcast. Let us recall that it was first aired at a time when Washington was trying to convince the world public opinion of the existence of a threat: the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that terrorist groups could obtain. However, the day after the material was broadcast, Le Monde, the reference newspaper of the French elite, made an extensive coverage of the documentary. The television reporter of the news daily, Dominique Dhombres, praised the research work of the three authors, although he described it as too alarmist, and affirmed that “after having watched the documentary by Hesi Carmel, Jean-Marc Gonin and Richard Puech broadcast on Tuesday night by France 3, you may ask yourself how come a nuclear attack has not taken place yet”, [2], a remark that is particularly appropriate considering that it has not taken place after the documentary was made. In the same edition, Le Monde revealed that the French Interior Minister was working on a new anti-terrorist legislation. Thus, a threat was being used as a way to justify the solution.

Soon, it was known that the main guidelines of this legislation would be presented during a special television program on the “terrorist threat” in France that would be broadcast, once more, by the channel France 3 as part of the program Pièce à conviction. On that occasion, this program, which is normally in the second part of the night programming, was rescheduled for a prime time edition, that is, with the largest audience, on September 26, 2005.

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“The Terrorist Threat”
On September 26, 2005, the television program “Pièce à conviction” had Nicolas Sarkozy and anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière as guests.

. It was only the fourth time that the program was aired in prime time after it was launched in October 2001 and its guests were Nicolas Sarkozy and anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière. The program was recorded on September 21st, 2005, and the French Interior Minister used it to introduce his law that significantly toughens the then existing texts. He put a particular emphasis on the fact that “there is a terrorist threat on France, of a very high level” and said that a terrorist group had just been dismantled.

However, there had not been any arrests before the program was recorded. The arrests took place the morning after the program was aired, something that – in a very appropriate time – put Islamic terrorism in the centre of attention. At 06:00, elite units of the French police, the RAID (under the orders of the Interior Ministry), arrested nine people accused of preparing terrorist attacks in Paris by request of judge Bruguière. The arrests took place in front of the cameras of the three main French television channels: TF1, France 2 and France 3, that were there even before the arrival of the police forces. France 3 also included the event on the front page of its Internet website, below a line announcing the program that would be broadcast that night.

For the French media, there was no doubt that he nine people that had been arrested were all members of a Islamic network that was dangerous for the country. As it often happens, the media retook the press releases and information that “leaked” from circles linked to the investigation and completely forgot about the presumption of innocence. However, on September 30th, 2005, only four of the nine arrested men were presented to the prosecution for a possible presentation of charges. Let us point out that judge Bruguière has got us used to surprise arrests in which the reason of state is put before respect of the law [3].

This summer, Bruguière also played an important role in the arrest, along with groups of the Direction of Territorial Surveillance (DTS), of a father and his son in Wervicq-Sud, in the North department, near Lille. The arrest took place on July 26th, 2005, at 06:00 in front of the cameras of the television channel France 2 and the photographers of Agence France Presse that knew of the arrest thanks to timely information “leaks” and that even were helped to take air images of the arrest by police helicopters [4]. Once more, the media threw itself against the “terrorists”. But both men were released three days after their arrest and no charges were presented against them. The coverage of their release was far less significant than of their arrest. We have to point out that this “anti-terrorist” show took place in a moment that was far from being neutral on the media scene. In fact, France and Spain had just signed a common declaration about the need to fight terrorism. However, the arrest of the two men was based on alleged links with the terrorist attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004. In addition, the day before the arrest, Nicolas Sarkozy had visited the headquarters of the DTS – a visit that had been long planned – the group that carried out the arrest. There, he confirmed the merger of the DTS anti-terrorist services, the Renseignements généraux [General Intelligence] (RG) and the anti-terrorist division of the Judicial Police.

In Wervicq, like in Trappes, the arrests took place at the most appropriate moments.

During the program broadcast by France 3 on September 26, 2005, a lot was said about the risks of a terrorist attack against the French capital. The topic did not appear in the media after the program was broadcast; they had been talking about it for weeks.

On September 10, 2005, Pierre Lellouche published in Le Figaro an article denouncing the lack of preparation of the Socialist municipal authorities in Paris in the event of a terrorist attack [5]. The author presented, as evidence of his deep knowledge, his own contacts with US authorities specialized in counter terrorism. Certainly, Lellouche has close links with US Republican circles which led him to condemn before the conservative Heritage Foundation [6] France’s decision not to participate in the war in Iraq. Probably, the decision by Le Figaro to publish his article is not a casual one as the main stake holder of that conservative news daily is the Dassault group. Lellouche, along with Olivier Dassault, created the International Circle, an association of business people and Atlantist politicians and he writes for the Valeurs actuelles weekly, that also belongs to the Dassault industrial group since 1998.

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September 21, 2005
French daily Libération gives credit to the high terror attack risk on paris thesis.

This media outlet took advantage of the enthusiasm about the topic of terrorism in the media on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington [7]. As a candidate of the UPM for the position of mayor of Paris, Pierre Lellouche placed this topic in the center of his internal campaign against his rivals, thus developing a main topic of the media strategy of the president of his party, Nicolas Sarkozy. In his efforts to make this the centrepiece of his campaign, Lellouche had the assistance, voluntary or not, of leftist media and politicians. Therefore, on September 21, 2005, the French leftist news daily Libération devoted a front-page article and a special dossier to the accusations of UPM against Socialist Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, and revealed the security measures of the Paris police prefecture. The information of Libération gave credit to the thesis of a high risk of a terrorist attack against the French capital. That same day, in the French public radio station France Inter, Bertrand Delanoe rejected the laxness accusations against him (but not the terrorist threat) during a 15-minute interview, at the end of which he answered questions by listeners. The morning magazine of that radio station has the largest audience in France. France Inter also devoted a program to discuss the topic of the terrorist danger in France in its prime time news cast at 1:00 p.m.

This media spreading of the accusations of Pierre Lellouche, on September 21, took him to the top spot of the campaign for the mayor post of Paris and represented the perfect introduction for the anti-terrorist “show” of Nicolas Sarkozy the same day that the latter was recording his program for France 3.

Currently, the Interior Minister occupies the centre of debates, like the axioms of Washington’s international policies. Nicolas Sarkozy took advantage of the topic of the Islamic veil to introduce the theme of the “clash of civilizations” in the French political debate [8], and he is now retaking the topic of the “war on terror”. He is doing it at a moment when Washington is focusing on the financing of his campaign for the presidential election of 2007 [9] and when the president of UPM is organizing an action to massively send spam through the French e-mail networks to recruit party-followers in order to “prepare the Project 2007” [10].

[1] “Aurore noire sur Bruxelles”, Voltaire, May 6, 2004.

[2] “La “valise nucléaire” by Ben Laden”, by Dominique Dhombres, Le Monde, September 8, 2005.

[3] “Jean-Louis Bruguière, un juge d’exception”, by Paul Labarique, Voltaire, April 29, 2004.

[4] “La présomption d’innocence fait les frais de la médiatisation”, by Ludovic Finez, Club de la presse, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, August 2005

[5] “Terrorisme: la menace urbaine”, by Pierre Lellouche, Le Figaro, September 10, 2005. This article was analyzed in our own Op-eds decyphered on September 15, 2005. The reader will certainly realize the similarity between the title of that article and the documentary “Terrorisme, la menace nucléaire”, rebroadcast four days before by France 3

[6] “Madelin et Lellouche contre Chirac”, Voltaire, April 15, 2003

[7] On that occasion, France 3, an expert in the topic of terrorism, broadcast on September 12, 2005, in prime time, a “fiction documentary” entitled “11 septembre, les révoltés du vol 93”, that supposedly depicted the last minutes of the United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001

[8] “Nicolas Sarkozy agite le voile islamique”, Voltaire, January 19, 2004.

[9] “La nouvelle stratégie européenne des néo-conservateurs”, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire, September 27, 2005

[10] An e-mail message entitled “Participez à la préparation du projet 2007 (Participate in the preparation of the Project 2007” has been sent to 300 000 French internet users that visited the websites Voyages-sncf.com, Aquarelle.com, Mistergooddeal.com or Ticketnet.fr, companies that have publicity contracts with Maximiles.

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