Kerry: 'There Was...a Rationale You Could Attach Yourself to' in Terror Attack on Charlie Hebdo

By Patrick Goodenough | November 17, 2015 | 6:30 PM EST

Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, displays the front page of the magazine on September 19, 2012, the day it published provocative cartoons of Mohammed. Charbonnier was one of 12 people killed in January’s terror attack at the publication’s offices in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday drew a distinction between Friday’s terror attacks in Paris and attacks last January that targeted a magazine known for its irreverent treatment of Islam, saying the most recent ones had no “rationale.”

“There’s something different about what happened [on Friday] from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” he told staff and families at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

“There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, ‘okay, they’re really angry because of this or that.’

“This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate,” Kerry continued. “It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people. It was to attack everything that we do stand for. That’s not an exaggeration.”

One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in a series of coordinated gun and bomb attacks in the French capital on Friday night, claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL).

Last January, masked gunmen shot dead 12 people in an attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, and in a linked attack a terrorist killed four Jews during a siege at a kosher supermarket. Those attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Charlie Hebdo, infamous for mocking a wide range of targets, angered Muslims when it reproduced the controversial Danish Mohammed cartoons in 2006, then published still more in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Reacting to Kerry’s remarks, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) called him “plain wrong” and said he must “correct the record.”

“There was absolutely nothing legitimate or rational about the slaughter of 10 newspaper staff and two police officers in Paris earlier this year,” Royce said. “Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are pillars of our free world, and we can never allow radical Islamists to use these fundamental rights to justify their evil acts.”

Kerry’s suggestion that those who attacked the magazine had a “rationale” for doing so stands in contrast to much more careful comments he made during a visit to Paris days after the January attack.

“I know that even as we speak, there are passionate debates over the complex issues that this tragedy has raised,” he said on January 16. “But what should be beyond debate, beyond the scope of politics or religion, satire or culture, is the common aspiration to create a world rich in love and short on hate.”

He also spoke then of the obligation of everyone to “to defend the values our societies cherish and extremists fear the most: tolerance, freedom, truth.”

On the day of the attack the previous week, Kerry spoke firmly in favor of Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech. “Free expression and a free press are core values they are universal values, principles that can be attacked but never eradicated.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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