Nearly fifty world leaders and a host of religious leaders participated in a massive anti-terrorism unity march that drew over 1.5 million people to the streets of Paris but U.S. President Barack Obama and top U.S. leadership were notably absent from the gathering in support of freedom.
The White House offered no explanation for President Obama’s absence.
Obama was present at the White House on Sunday after offering condolences to the French last week and remarking about the need to support freedom of speech, calling France “one of oldest and strongest allies”.
The White House chose instead to send U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley to attend the unity march.
Secretary of State John Kerry was in India on Sunday attending a summit with Prime Minister Modi.
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden was also not sent to attend the unity march for unknown reasons.
Some of the world leaders attending the unity march included French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Malian President Ibrahim Keita, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose presence at the unity march raised some security concerns.
Although much of the international community understands that the United States stands at the forefront in combatting terrorism and works cooperatively with government anti-terrorism intelligence agencies across the globe, the decision from the White House to not send top U.S. political leaders to the unity rally on Sunday has made President Obama’s strong words last week in support of freedom seem less powerful.
Next week the United States will invite global allies to attend a February 18th global security summit meeting in Washington D.C. that seeks ways to reduce the spread of religious extremism and global terrorism.