Littwin: The terror of the Nice attack is a test

Eric Gaillard/Reuters
Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Photo Eric Gaillard/Reuters

When you see Reuters photographer Eric Gaillard’s photograph of the small body lying covered in the street, a child’s doll at its side, whatever part of your heart that remains unbroken surely must break now.

It’s the exact image that any terrorist hopes for: a symbol of the end of hope and the crushing of dreams. And when you see the body and the doll, you know you must do something to counter that image. But what?

And this is where your heart breaks again.

Terrorism is a test. It’s an awful test. In France, this latest attack came on Bastille Day, just to raise the stakes that much higher, just so there could be no question that this was an attack not only on a crowd celebrating the holiday but on the very heart of France’s democratic traditions.

Because it’s election season in America — of course, it’s always election season in America — Hillary Clinton made sure to say the words “Islamic” and “jihad” to show that she knows who the enemy is. Donald Trump tweeted “when will we ever learn?” without quite saying what it is we should have learned, but insinuating that obviously Obama/Clinton hadn’t learned it or else no one would be attacking France.

No one failed the test quite so spectacularly as Newt Gingrich, who, in an apparent 11th-hour attempt to hijack the VP nomination from Mike Pence, went so far over the top that the master, Trump himself, must have stood in slack-jawed admiration at all that was wrong with Gingrich’s declaration.

Yes, Gingrich would go on Sean Hannity’s show — where else? — to say we should force every American Muslim to pass a religious test of Gingrich’s making. Yes, he would take us far beyond Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration — a ban that Mike Pence, by the way, has called unconstitutional. This is what Gingrich would say: “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported.”

Gingrich also blamed the attack on “Western elites who lack the guts to do what is right, to do what is necessary.” What Gingrich finds necessary, apparently, is to kick out those Muslims in America who don’t understand Gingrich’s call to suspend the Constitution.

As I write this, we know the driver of the truck was born in Tunisia and lived in France, that he was known to authorities for domestic violence and rages against his ex-wife but not for any radical ties. We know that the death count from the rampage has climbed to 84, that as many as 50 are in critical condition, that as many as 10 of the dead are children. We know that, whatever the motive, whether ISIS was directly involved or indirectly involved or not involved at all, this was still terrorism at its most brutal.

And so, in no surprise, this latest attack leads to bold talk of declarations of war or of sending in more troops. And yet you wonder what the troops would do, in Iraq or Syria or wherever, to defend against a delivery driver who rents a truck and drives it directly into a terrified mass of holiday makers on Nice’s famed Promenade des Anglais.

The smart people who study these things tell us that if ISIS is involved, the fact that ISIS is rapidly losing ground in Syria and Iraq has probably led, in its perverse way, to an increase in terror attacks to distract from the military defeats. That doesn’t make it any less important to defeat ISIS and its nihilist ideology, or any less clear that there needs to be a more cooperative effort to fight terrorism. But it does lead to another question.

If there were an end to ISIS, would it mean an end, or even a decline, in terror attacks launched by a small subset of disaffected young Islamic men? In Europe especially, this is the question that must be answered, even as anti-Islamic nationalism is on the rise. In America, Trump hopes to answer it by grabbing onto the “America First” brand of nationalism without understanding, or at least explaining, the slogan’s sad history.

To say that these are difficult questions is to understate the moment and the challenge. The events — the attacks in Paris, in San Bernardino, in Orlando, in Istanbul, in Nice and more — blur into each other, and it is easy to forget that these are distinct events in different places with different contexts with new victims, each once a living being. That’s what terror is designed to do.

Add the murderous chaos that we saw following peaceful protests on the streets of Dallas — where the blue lights honoring the five dead police officers turned to blue, white and red to honor those dead in Nice — and we hardly know what to think.

Like any tourist lucky enough to have visited the South of France, I’ve stood on the promenade just where the driver, in his mile-long attack, slammed his truck into unsuspecting innocents walking along the sea on a night that has been described as perfect to celebrate being alive in such a beautiful place.

That was the point, I guess: to make us believe there are no safe places. And that even the children, clutching their dollies, are not immune.

Photo copyright Eric Gaillard/Reuters

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


  1. ” Trump tweeted: When will we ever learn? Without quite saying what it is we should have learned… “- Littwin

    GEE LITWIN, ARE YOU STILL CONFUSED ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING ? Allow me to assist your apparently retarded brain.

    Tune in to @MSNBC for continued live coverage of the deadly truck crash in Nice, France: MSNBC OFFICIAL TWITTER

    Apparently MSNBC can’t figure it out either ! They think it was a “truck crash” ! ! ! LOL !


    In fact I think the truck just “drove itself” like on Maximum Overdrive !


    While mobs of Muslims OPENLY scream “Death to America” in Chicago and NY…. Hillary wants to flood in MORE and give them all our stolen welfare ! Bwah hahhahhahha !

    And Liberal (LEFTIST FASCIST IS WHAT YOU PEOPLE REALLY ARE, YOU ARE NOT “LIBERAL”) Littwin still can’t figure out what the problem is.

    I know you are just pissed off TRUMP WAS RIGHT AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE PROVEN RIGHT because you Leftists are just treasonous scum.

    TRUMP 2016 ! And if you want Muslims Littwin…. you can take them into YOUR HOUSE and give them YOUR MONEY. Don’t steal ours to give to this totalitarian violent mass rape cult.

  2. Shut Up G King. By your logic, are you willing to take all disillusioned so-called Christians, like the one who shot at a building full of people in Co Springs in our own state of Colorado, into YOUR HOUSE? Then Shut Up!

  3. I just wanted to say ‘thanks’ Mike Littwin. I read your column every week in the Summit Daily and I’m always laughing in agreement with the things you have to say. Please keep up with your clever and amusing outlook. And as for you, Miss G King… Dude, get your diaper changed and go to bed, it’s past your bedtime!

  4. Mike Litten’s detractors fail to comprehend his meaning of “a test” because they don’t understand their own lack of empathy acquisition. Can’t blame them when they don’t understand others’ pain…just pity them and hope that there aren’t enough of them to elect an egomaniac president who shares their beliefs.

  5. Mr. Littwin’s heartfelt and very moving expression of sympathy for the 84 victims (10 of them children) of a terrorist attack in Nice, France can’t disguise the fact that he is both clueless and reluctant. Clueless about how to deal with the terrorism threat posed by radical Islam and extremely reluctant to admit it.

    He’s hardly alone. Neither does our feckless community organizer turned commander-in-chief Barack Obama. If, as Mr. Littwin suggests, “Terrorism is a test” the US is failing and failing badly.

    Mr. Littwin would like readers to believe it’s a choice between his there’s-nothing-we-can-do-about-terrorism-so-deal-with-it approach and that favored by Newt Gingrich. It’s a false choice. But it does help Mr. Littwin fill column space which helps him avoid revealing that he has no strategy for dealing with the terrorism threat radical Islam presents.

    Even sincere empathy is no substitute for strategy.

    And how does Mr. Littwin respond to this from Mediaite?

    “According to a translation provided by Heat Street, the victims in the Bataclan theater were found beheaded, with their eyes gouged out, castrated, and with their genitals shoved into their mouths. Some of the female victims were reportedly “sexually tortured” and found with multiple lacerations to their genitals. The scene was bad enough that officers on the scene had to leave to vomit”
    In typical (what’s a nice word for “gutless”?) timid fashion, Mr. Littwin ignored it. It’s become his trademark.

    We know now that ISIS has claimed credit for the actions of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old Tunisian responsible for the massacre at Nice that claimed the lives of 84 people but it has not yet been determined if he acted alone.

    This from the Associated Press:

    “The veracity of the group’s claim couldn’t immediately be determined, but French officials didn’t dispute it.

    What is known publicly about Bouhlel so far suggests a troubled, angry man with little interest in the group’s ultra-puritanical brand of Islam.

    But, in a statement to reporters, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve hinted that Bouhlel may have had a last-minute adoption of a more extremist worldview.

    It seems he was radicalized very quickly,” Cazeneuve said following a ministerial meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris.”

    It appears Bouhlel was radicalized in the same manner as Omar Mateen, the man responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

    Mr. Littwin wants to mock and ridicule the suggestions of others (e.g. Gingrich, Trump) without offering an alternative. It’s an approach that on other issues (e.g. Obamacare) he has heavily criticized. He wants readers to believe America is safer by doing nothing. An approach that didn’t deter Omar Mateen.

    This update on the Orlando massacre from the Washington Post:

    “The FBI has found no evidence so far that Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded more than 53 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, chose the popular establishment because of its gay clientele, U.S law enforcement officials said.

    Soon after the shooting in the early morning of June 12, top U.S officials such as the FBI director and U.S. attorney general described it as both a hate crime and an act of Islamic terrorism.”

    Mr. Littwin clings desperately to the long ago debunked theory that projecting weakness ensures safety. While it’s not surprising he would enthusiastically embrace that theory it is surprising he actually believes it.

    “Terrorism can’t be defeated by shrugging our shoulders or by civics lessons on democracy, as President Obama seemed to suggest Friday. This is a war — and it’s getting deadlier by the day.” – New York Post editorial

    “ARVADA, Colorado (AP) — Eight years ago, Barbara Conley was one of the millions of Americans swept up in Barack Obama’s promises of hope and change when he accepted the Democratic nomination at a packed stadium a few miles from her home in the Denver suburbs.

    But those optimistic days are almost unrecognizable to Conley now.
    With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton preparing for their own nominating conventions, Conley is filled with so much frustration at the candidates that she can’t even imagine voting in November.

    The same sense of anger and anxiety runs deep among voters across the country.” – Associated Press

    “At this writing a struggle for power is raging in Turkey.  The coup and counter-coup caught the Obama administration, according to news sources, completely by surprise.  That assertion is supported by the fact that it caught John Kerry on the hop, as he returned with a secret agreement to coordinate Syrian military operations with Vladimir Putin. It turned his agreement with Putin, which was doubtless to be presented as a triumph, into a canceled check. It leaves him standing like a man with a fruit shirt, a travel brochure and missing wallet at what he now realizes is the wrong airport.” – PJ Media

    “All indications are that this attack, like the others, was at least inspired by Islamic fanaticism, if not directly coordinated with the Islamic State. After plowing his semi into a crowd of Bastille Day revelers, killing at least four dozen people including ten children, the perpetrator began firing at the survivors and shouted the Islamic mantra “God is great” before being shot by police.

    If there is any advantage the French people have in coping with such a dangerous environment, it is that their leaders lack the lazy shortcut that President Obama and Hillary Clinton chose immediately after the similarly deadly massacre that occurred recently in Orlando. American Democrats have shown they can mollify at least their own supporters about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism by hiding it behind boilerplate rhetorical platitudes about gun control.” – Washington Examiner

    “New swing-state polls released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University show Trump leading Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania — and tied in the critical battleground state of Ohio. In three of the states that matter most in November, the surveys point to a race much closer than the national polls, which have Clinton pegged to a significant, mid-single-digit advantage over Trump, suggest.” – Politico

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2016

  6. Don Lopez, it’s called a “comment”, not hijacking Littwin’s column to publish your own. Your first 12 or so lines are your own – stick with them. Readers don’t need to scroll through pages of your citations.

    The “facts” you cite are dubious, as well.
    The Bataclan and Orlando massacres are horrific enough without embellishment.

  7. kim,

    No one is forcing readers to “scroll through pages” of citations. Those readers who want the balance Mr. Littwin doesn’t provide on issues he writes about or issues he ignores (e.g. Laquan McDonald, Bataclan) do so voluntarily.

    Mr. Littwin freely admits his views are unbalanced in big red letters at the top of every column. But thanks for your remarks, it’s comments like yours that keep me going.

Comments are closed.