© Thierry Pons/Maxppp/Zuma Press/MCT
The following are important facts that may help you understand the background to the recent shocking events in South Western France.

Three servicemen have died and in another attack on a Jewish school, a teacher, two of his own children and a third child were tragically gunned down by a masked man riding a motor scooter.

Important fact number one: the first round of the French presidential election is scheduled for April 22nd. A final encounter between the two front runners is scheduled for May 6th, should no clear winner emerge from the first round.

And number two: the incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy is fighting for his political life. He has trailed his socialist opponent Francoise Holland for months now. He has not led in the polls against any socialist contender since November 2009.

To sum up, Sarkozy is one of the consistently least popular presidents in the history of the Fifth Republic. He looked every inch the loser engaged in a race to the bottom. His populist lunges at the over-bearing EU, playing the anti-Turkish card over the Armenian genocide issue, barely registered more than a temporary flicker on the political Geiger counter.

It is unlikely that an outright victor will emerge from the first round. This requires an absolute margin over all candidates. Eight are on the starting block for April 22nd. Sarkozy and Hollande are virtually neck and neck at 27-28% respectively (average of polls conducted March 15 - 19).

Sarkozy's nightmare is a knock-out blow delivered in the first round. Looking at the polls before the recent events in and around Toulouse, this appeared at least a possibility.

To avoid being tossed from the Élysée Palace in such a humiliating fashion, Sarkozy must sap votes from Hollande and Marin le Pen, the fragrant leader of the National Front (running third, with an average but solid rating of 16%) and the charismatic independent Francois Bayrou (average 11%), then hope to wheel around and defeat Hollande in the final duel on May 6th.

If Sarkozy were to trail Hollande, albeit even slightly, in the first round, this would count as a defeat in the eyes of French voters. It would then be left to Hollande to administer the coup de grace.

The net effect of the attacks will likely be as follows:

The Jewish vote will solidify behind Sarkozy (who incidentally has Jewish blood on his mother's side).

He will rally that significant portion of the French electorate which is resolutely opposed to further Muslim immigration, which in France comes largely from former colonies such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

[Editor's note: he has already been playing to this segment of the French electorate by promoting the idea of closed borders. This latest tragedy just builds upon that previous move.]

Mlle le Pen will undoubtedly see some of her core strength seep towards the president and Bayrou's support base will weaken significantly.

Machiavelli's got nothing on this guy
This polarizing of voting intentions might well be sufficient to guarantee Sarkozy the psychological edge over Hollande in the first round, if not outright victory altogether.

The television newsreels of Sarkozy the Action Man, the War President, taking personal charge of the operation to track down the culprits, the plunging of the country into a sudden state of high emergency on the eve of the most contentious presidential election for years, works like supercharged adrenalin.

The formal election campaign has been swept from the headlines by the horror stories and speculation pouring from Toulouse and the surrounding region.

Instead we see the substitution of electioneering by terror, in the tradition of Gladio. The BBC reported the 'sense of unease' spreading across France, which if one has to be cynical would be precisely the required impact in these highly charged electoral circumstances.

Poor Francois Hollande must be weeping buckets of tears. His calm, steadfast campaign lies in ruins as the president prances around like a hyperactive Muppet.

A genuine coincidence in politics is very rare, especially where elections are concerned. Manipulation is invariably the order of the day, by whatever means.

Sarkozy has therefore been either devilishly lucky at this stage of the hustings, or we are watching a repeat performance of the vintage Strategy of Tension? I think the latter.

In the late 60s through to the early 80s Europe was terrorized by gangs who went about planting bombs and shooting people (all of which is detailed in depth in my book on Gladio).

The Red Brigades in Italy, the Baader-Meinhof Red Army Faction in Germany, November 17 in Greece, all bands of vaguely orientated Marxist-anarchists with a taste for violence to dramatize their cause.

We now know that much of this was synthetic terror stirred for political ends by the organs of the state, intelligence organizations, and the Gladio secret armies owing allegiance to NATO.

Ironically, given present circumstances, it was a fanatically anti-communist, ultra-Catholic French ex-paratrooper called Yves Guerin-Serac ('God's Terrorist') who codified the manual of terror employed by the Gladio units.

He was a particular enthusiast for infiltrating and steering subversive organizations, in order to program acts of terror that would send voters flocking to the safe arms of right wing parties and politicians.

Claudio Celani, the Italian specialist on the Gladio secret armies, was the first to define these tactics as the Strategy of Tension. Unless I am very much mistaken, this is exactly the scenario that is being played out in France right now.

When first news emerged of the shootings of three soldiers, two of them in a shopping mall in Montauban, and the horrible attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse, official briefings blamed ex-paratroopers expelled from the military for neo-fascist leanings.

If this was true, then much of the French army would suffer the same fate for holding identical views. Include the national gendarmerie under the same heading for good measure.

In Norway last July, the gunman accused of bombing central Oslo and then killing 69 campers on a holiday island, was similarly branded as fanatical right wing anti-Muslim extremist and there were similar questions and irregularities surrounding the official story as well. The fortunes of Norway's own Far Right party immediately plunged.

The first accounts of the murders would certainly raise the political temperature sufficiently to damage the electoral prospects of the National Front and their candidate Marin le Pen.

This would unquestionably favor the president's electoral prospects. It was more than interesting that Sarkozy himself implied early on that the authorities 'knew' who the killers were, which suggested more than a degree of foreknowledge, which has now been verified (see update below).

This may be another example of his famous ability to shoot from the hip, or a slip that may yet come home to his embarrassment.

Then, without any explanation, the neo-fascists were hustled from the scene, to be replaced by a shadowy group of al Qaeda sympathizers with an operational base somewhere in North Africa.

Police muttered darkly that they had feared all along they would strike during the election campaign, although the villains had not previously managed to extend their reach across the Mediterranean.

Al Qaeda is a fictional creation of western intelligence, a remnant of the US-trained guerrillas who fought the Russians in Afghanistan and were subsequently recruited by the CIA to bolster Muslim forces in the Balkan struggle against the Serbs (the pact with the devil as the chief American legate in the Balkans, the late Richard Holbrooke, once described it).

In no time at all, they alighted on the home of a suspect in Toulouse, who shot at police officers when they knocked on his door.

Breivik: GLADIO asset?
He was dutifully described as an affiliate of the North Africa militant cell, who killed the teacher and three children at the Jewish school as a reprisal for the innocents killed by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

The original Strategy of Tension featured communist subversives burrowing like termites on the fabric of western democracy.

The roles have been switched to radicalized Muslims and Far Right neo-fascists. Both, as we have seen, feature in the various and it must be said, conflicting accounts currently emerging from France.

Invariably in this script a patsy or stooge appears, a generally isolated individual on the fringes of society.

Nardine Amrani, the lone gunman held responsible for the shooting spree in the Belgian city of Liege just before Christmas last year, and Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, feature in this category.

Both turned out to be well known to the police before committing horrific acts. Mohamed Bouyeri, who killed the controversial anti-Muslim film director Theo van Gogh in a frenzied stabbing in Amsterdam in November 2004 had been under surveillance by the police and Dutch intelligence for months.

For those who are aware of these trends and strategies of destabilization and control it was likely unsurprising that the watch was called off shortly before the murder.

So it was with Breivik, even though he was suspected of garnering materials to make bombs. Amrani had amassed a formidable arsenal, under the noses of the police and his probation officers, despite the fact that he was on parole from a long sentence for owning illegal weapons.

Another GLADIO victim lies dead, one of 7 in the Belgian city of Liege last December. NATO stay-behind terror cells, in collaboration with the ideological brothers in the Mossad, have been terrorising Europeans for decades
The four young men alleged to have blown up the underground trains in London in July 2005 were under surveillance by British intelligence as suspected would-be bombers.

Events are unfolding, but it is already challenging to reconcile the sudden switch in stories from a crazed neo-fascist to an Islamic militant who killed three French army soldiers of North African origin.

Even if the neo-fascist explanation is discarded altogether, why then did an apparently radicalized Islamist militant coldly kill others of his own religion, professing his al Qaeda sympathies at the same time?

The pieces of this jig-saw do not seem to quite fit. Put another way, it appears that hidden hands behind the curtain are working very hard to make the cap fit somebody already lined up to the take the rap. The words dead or alive come to mind.

Unfortunately the inane corporate mainstream media will not attempt to provide answers to these questions.

In any event what passes for journalism nowadays is really an extension of the state propaganda machine.

We cannot, therefore, expect an open-minded inquiry which places these atrocities in the context of a bitterly fought election campaign, which is precisely where they belong.

As Marshall McLuan so famously remarked, "the medium is the message."

UPDATE: My story line plays out. Police have now named their suspect as Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old petty criminal of Algerian origin who spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan and claims to be an al Qaeda militant.

Wire service AFP reports: Born in the southwestern French city of Toulouse on October 10, 1988, Merah had been tracked for years by France's DCRI domestic intelligence service, but nothing suggested that he was preparing a major crime. (Cottrell intervenes: this was the same claim that MI5 and MI6 made in respect of the London subway bombers).

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said he was part of a group of around 15 followers of Islamic fundamentalist Salafist ideology in Toulouse, where he lived in the northern Izards neighborhood.

As I indicated in the introduction, we are being introduced to the traditional patsy who has been on police books for years and has either been steered into committing major crimes or motivated to do so by his minders.

UPDATE 2 (from Madison Ruppert): Now Francois Molins, the French public prosecutor handling the case, is telling reporters that Merah had undergone military training with al Qaeda. Molins claimed that he was trained in the Waziristan province of Pakistan.

An unnamed French security source claimed that Merah spent around a year in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In 2010 he was allegedly picked up by local Kandahar police in Afghanistan and then handed over to the U.S. Army, which then put him on the first flight back to France, according to Molins.

However, American officials refused to comment on their role in handling Merah in Afghanistan, instead saying that they believed he was not actually affiliated with al Qaeda.

U.S. officials are now claiming that he was actually a lone wolf killer with only a few people working with him, possibly including his brother.

If nothing else is certain, we now know that there is much confusion along with misinformation (potentially disinformation) surrounding this tragedy.

UPDATE 3 (from Richard Cottrell): Dead men tell no tales. Thus Mohammed Merah died by leaping from an upper floor window when police broke into his apartment on the Rue Sergent Vigne in the usually quiet suburb of Toulouse shortly after 10.30 am French time on April 22nd.

From now on the government, the official investigators, and of course the government centered on Nicholas Sarkozy will control the narrative. The boxed-in corporate media will dance to the official tune, leaving all the important and vital questions unasked and therefore unanswered.

Merah shows all the typecast indications of the classic patsy or stooge, schooled by his minders. I think the closest comparison is with Nardine Amrani, the man who purportedly went on a rampage in the Belgian city of Liege just before Christmas last year, in which seven died and 125 were injured.

He is supposed to have shot himself, although it is far more likely that he was executed. We certainly need to know much more concerning the circumstances of Merah's death leap, if we are permitted that is.

Of course the truth at the bottom of this affair will never be allowed to emerge. And Nicholas Sarkozy is now a shoo-in for a second term as President of the French Republic.

The French people may confidently expect the introduction of draconian laws suitable for the siege mentality that rules Sarkozy's mind, disturbed as that already is by a massive inferiority complex dating to abandonment as a young child by his father.

Drawing on this state of permanent fear ushered in by recent events I expect to him to close the borders and withdraw from the continental passport-free Schengen zone. The 5 million or so Islamic immigrants will henceforth be regarded as a huge reservoir of further diabolical acts. The famous cry of liberté, égalité, fraternité may safely be safely tossed to the four winds of history.

Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and former European MP (Conservative). His new book Gladio: NATO's Dagger At The Heart Of Europe is now available from Progressive Press. You may order it using the link below (or by clicking here - Gladio, NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis).

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