Back when the U.S.A. invaded Iraq, the French refused to join the “coalition of the willing” and opposed our efforts, leading to Americans making fun of French military prowess and making anti-French gestures such as re-labeling a favorite food indulgence as “freedom fries.” But now the French–not us–have embarked on a military invasion of a Muslim country, the West African nation of Mali (a former French colony) in order to quell al Qaeda terrorism and the establishment of an Islamist state. Not only that, this is the work of the left-wing socialist government of President Francois Hollande, who is as far from a George W. Bush figure as one could imagine. Evidently, the war on terrorism and fighting back against Islamic jihad is not necessarily a right/left, conservative/liberal issue.
From the L.A. Times:
France boosted its troops in Mali on Tuesday as armored vehicles arrived in the capital, Bamako, as part of a planned 2,500-strong deployment to battle Al Qaeda-linked militants.
France now has about 750 troops in Mali, said President Francois Hollande, who outlined plans to more than triple the French force to help destroy Al Qaeda-linked groups in northern Mali and restore the West African nation’s territorial integrity and political stability.
“We have one goal,” Hollande said at a news conference in the United Arab Emirates. “To ensure that when we leave, when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory.”
France, the former colonial power in Mali and other parts of West Africa, fears that Al Qaeda has been building a haven from which to unleash devastating terrorist strikes on Europe, particularly the French.
UPDATE: The United States is considering helping out, not with troops but with transport, refueling planes, and intelligence.
The Mali insurgents trying to take over the country are a particularly nasty and barbaric group of Islamists. From the Washington Post:
SEGOU, Mali — On a sweltering afternoon, Islamist police officers dragged Fatima Al Hassan out of her house in the fabled city of Timbuktu. They beat her up, shoved her into a white pickup truck and drove her to their headquarters. She was locked up in a jail as she awaited her sentence: 100 lashes with an electrical cord.
“Why are you doing this?” she recalled asking.
Hassan was being punished for giving water to a male visitor.
… [R]efugees say the Islamists are raping and forcibly marrying women, and recruiting children for armed conflict. Social interaction deemed an affront to their interpretation of Islam is zealously punished through Islamic courts and a police force that has become more systematic and inflexible, human rights activists and local officials say.
We already blogged about how the Islamists in Mali have banned music, forcing some of the best musicians in Africa to flee. See the post “In a struggle against all the musicians of the world.”