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Secretary of State John Kerry’s mien is so European that even Europeans must find it off-putting. More disturbing, however, is his astonishing lack of knowledge about the nature of ISIS. One wonders, for example, what French president François Hollande made of Kerry’s comment that the murders of the staff of Charlie Hebdo possessed “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 and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong.”
Kerry’s staggering moral confusion has been roundly — and rightly — criticized. This criticism, however, has missed the larger point, which is that Kerry is wrong on its merits: last week’s terrorist attack in Paris was every bit as “focused” and not at all “indiscriminate.” Don’t take my word for it, take the Islamic State’s. Two days after the attacks the Islamic State released a statement calling Paris a “capital of prostitution and obscenity.” By “obscenity,” of course, ISIS refers to things like attending sporting events, listening to rock music, and hanging out at cafes with friends sipping alcohol. As far as it is concerned, such pleasures are no less obscene than depicting Mohammed, a fact which Kerry’s ignorance disqualifies him as Secretary of State.
That more than half of the 129 victims were under the age of 30 only reinforces ISIS’s seething hatred of all things joyful. The Taliban’s ban on kite-flying is instructive here. What on earth, you may ask, us un-Islamic about flying a kite? The reason for the ban was this: one does not fly a kite for any purpose other than to have fun and — for Islamic primitives like the Taliban — that is sufficient to justify a ban. Islamists aren’t ambivalent about pleasure; they have a seething hatred for it (with one well-known exception).
Kerry is much more than the only Democratic presidential nominee to lose the popular vote to a Republican in the last fifteen years: he is a political lifer and an elite of the first order who possesses a staggering naiveté about the lethal nature of our suicidal, homicidal, and Islamist enemy.