In remarks at the U.S. embassy in Paris on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rationalized the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo last January, saying terrorists at least had an understandable reason for it. Kerry’s remarks, which were transcribed and made available online by the State Department, were intended to calm and encourage embassy staff and their families.
Kerry specifically drew a contrast between January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, and the attacks that rocked Paris on Friday, killing more than 120 people and injuring scores of others.
“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Kerry said. “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 and that.”
And how was that different than last week’s attacks throughout Paris?
“This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate,” he said. “It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people.”
Kerry did not expand on why he thought murderous terrorist attacks with a “rationale”–for example, the desire to murder magazine cartoonists–were somehow less horrifying than the desire to kill indiscriminately. He also contradicted himself moments later, when he said Islamic terrorists target people for who they are and what they believe, while at the same time killing people indiscriminately.
“They kill people because of who they are and they kill people because of what they believe,” Kerry said. “And it’s indiscriminate.”
A former U.S. senator accustomed to debating complex issues at length in Congress, Kerry drew immediate fire online for his rationalization of the Hebdo attacks that killed 11 people in retaliation for drawing cartoons that radical Islamic jihadis believed were offensive.
Although top officials from throughout the world gathered in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in a show of solidarity with the French, the U.S. was a no-show at a unity rally that drew a crowd of more than a million people.