In the most devastating terrorist attack ever carried out on French soil, it was the random targeting of its victims that was perhaps the most disturbing part.
When those of us who were born and brought up in Paris look back on the slaughter of that one night in November 2015, we realise that anyone could have been caught up in the city-wide horror show.
It was Friday the 13th – a conspiracy theorist’s dream date, and as eerie as the unseasonably warm autumn weather that ensured thousands of potential murder victims were on the streets.
Killing unarmed civilians is demonically easy. Black market Kalashnikovs and explosives allowed nine suicidal terrorists to strike at will, taking 130 lives and wounding more than 400 others.
Victims including Christians, Jews, Muslims and non-believers were gunned down or blown to pieces. They were attending a rock concert, a football match, or relaxing in a café or restaurant.
The attackers – all drugged up, venomous young men obsessed by the easy deaths prevalent in gaming and Hollywood action film culture – were focused on nothing beyond body counts.
Despite this, such barbarity has since been attributed to a mindset typical of ethnic minority communities living in council estates on the edges of cities such as Paris.
The wicked deceit is that, by definition, Muslims want to destroy and maim because they are brought up to hate the West, and their cultural and religious background somehow justifies this.
This despicable propaganda was advanced by president Emmanuel Macron himself this month when, in a letter published in a British newspaper, he used what sounded like eugenics parlance to describe underfunded suburbs full of Muslims as “breeding grounds for terrorists in France”.
Delivering lines straight out of a Donald Trump fake news generator, he further claimed, without any evidence whatsoever, that there are “districts where small girls aged three or four are wearing a full veil, separated from boys, and, from a very young age, separated from the rest of society, raised in hatred of France’s values”.
Never mind that forcing someone to wear a burqa is an imprisonable crime in France, as is child abuse and radicalising minors. Bizarrely, in an era when cameras are everywhere, there were no images to back up Macron’s words about these infant sociopaths. There have been zero arrests, let alone prosecutions, for these alleged crimes.
Five years on from the Bataclan, firearms are much harder to get hold of, but – according to Macron – the estates still contain: “hundreds of radicalised individuals, who we fear may, at any moment, take a knife and kill people”.
Rather than spreading collective guilt so easily, Macron would do well to study the profiles of the November 2015 “commando”, as they are often described by more responsible commentators.
Of the nine men eventually killed by security forces, all had spent time fighting in Syria or Iraq with Isis, the so-called Islamic State.
This armed terrorist group grew out of the insurgency following the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Isis became infamous for its merciless cruelty towards enemies, not least because of the stomach-churning torture and execution videos it produced.
Battle-hardened fighters such as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian-Moroccan ringleader of the Paris attackers, did not pick up their sadistic extremism in provincial Mosques or secret Qu’ran-reading classes, nor indeed from parents or teachers.
Instead, they learnt about combat in a Middle East, Asia and North Africa torn to pieces by the best military technology in the world, which is that used by the US and its allies.
Some of the nine men were meant to be under surveillance, having travelled between places such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but nothing stopped them doing what they wanted on 13 November. Their commanders said they were carrying out “punishment” for the bombing of women and children in their camps.
Intriguingly, the only surviving member of the group is Salah Abdeslam, who had never made it to the Isis caliphate. Lacking in anything approaching soldierly morale and training, he froze on the night, dumped his suicide vest, and ran away.
What Abdeslam did have in common with the others is that his interest in religion was perfunctory, and there was no evidence of him being radicalised on a council estate, or of being any kind of devout Muslim.
Instead, he ran a bar in Brussels, where he drank alcohol and took illegal substances, following convictions for a range of crimes, including armed robbery and drug possession.
Like the others, Abdeslam is known to have been as high as a kite on the night of the attack, having filled his body with cannabis and cocaine.
“I’m not ashamed of who I am,” Abdeslam has since written to a correspondent from the high-security French prison cell, where he is expected to spend the rest of his life.
Look at the suspects involved in other acts of terrorism since 2015, and you will see that all are would-be Isis soldiers-cum-street-criminals.
Shock value and mass media coverage is crucial to these lone wolf delinquents, as they behead, stab or – as in Nice four years ago – use weapons as basic as a heavy goods vehicle to cause as many casualties as possible.
In recent weeks, such terrorists have come from Tunisia, Pakistan and the Russia-controlled state of Chechnya. All are instable countries, full of the kind of disturbed young men who might take up arms for groups like Isis.
This is why François Hollande, the president of France in 2015, quite rightly described the Paris attacks not as an explosion of Muslim dissent from the suburbs, but as an “act of war”.
Two days afterwards, he used his position as commander-in-chief of his country’s armed forces to launch the biggest airstrike ever of Opération Chammal, an anti-Isis bombing campaign.
Ordnance rained down on Raqqa, Syria, killing an estimated 1,000 Isis-linked operatives and goodness knows how many associated civilians.
This is the price of war, and exactly what keeps lethal violence escalating in countries from Afghanistan to Libya. As we saw on 13 November 2015, the perpetrators of such barbarity are the products of cataclysmic conflict and not of overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim communities.
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