- By Cameron AbadiCameron Abadi is deputy editor at Foreign Policy. He previously worked at the New Republic and Foreign Affairs and as a correspondent in Germany and Iran. His writing has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, the New Yorker, the New Republic, and Der Spiegel.
Germany experienced its first Islamist attack on Wednesday when a man by the name of Arid U. (Germany withholds the last names of suspects in ongoing investigations) opened fire at the Frankfurt airport, killing two U.S. military personnel and injuring two others. The circumstances of the attack are grimly prosaic: A young man with Muslim background (Kosovar in this case) finds solace among extremists and violently rejects his Western surroundings, cloaking his rage in political-theological language. Arid claimed that in shooting the U.S. troops he was seeking “revenge” for the West’s war in Afghanistan.
But if this type of terrorist attack seems familiar by now to Americans, it’s still worth looking twice at the German government’s reaction to it. According to a report in Der Spiegel [in German], German officials offered, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, a remarkably level-headed, if fatalistic, assessment of the case:
The German Federal Crime Office in Karlsruhe acknowledged astonishingly openly how little the department, despite changes in law and increases in personnel, can do about criminals like Arid U. “Such crimes can not be prevented,” the director of department Sven Kurenbach said.
It’s important to note that this wasn’t considered a “gaffe” by either the German media or the political opposition. The German public, and their public officials, apparently prefer to be spared the circus of blaring media tropes that the United States is now practiced at rolling out on these occasions. There was no witch hunt in Berlin for officials who should have seen this attack coming, no threatening military or rhetorical gestures toward foreign groups who may welcome this kind of murder, no interpretations of whether and which religious texts justify violence, no hand-wringing about the pernicious effects of social alienation.
Just the refreshingly frank admission from investigators that they weren’t lucky enough to prevent the attack. And the bracingly silent acknowledgement that it may well happen again.