John Kerry takes a stab at explaining why he and Obama skipped the giant Paris march against terrorism

(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

On Sunday, an estimated 1.6 million people marched in Paris in a show of unity after last week's terrorist attacks that killed 17 people, not including the three Islamist terrorists killed by police. Attending were the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Turkey, and Jordan, along with more than 30 other presidents and prime ministers.

Not in attendance was any high-ranking U.S. official, raising eyebrows at least in the U.S. (In France, Reuters reports, the fact that the U.S. was represented by Ambassador Jane Hartley was met with shrugs, and "one French TV commentator said the president's visit would have been unthinkable given the level of security that accompanies him at home and abroad.") Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for other related events, but didn't attend the rally.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on an official visit to India, said he is traveling to Paris on Thursday and Friday but dismissed the criticism that neither he, President Obama, nor Vice President Joe Biden attended the march. "The United States has been deeply engaged with France from the moment this horrific event took place," including sharing sharing intelligence, he said. "And I really think, you know, this is sort of quibbling a little bit."

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Echoing several other U.S. commentators, CNN's Fareed Zakaria said not sending a senior U.S. official was a mistake, noting that security concerns didn't keep other world leaders from attending. Still, he said, the absence showed that the fight against radical Islam isn't "all about America." "Many people have tended to think that Islamic terrorism wouldn't exist without America," he added. "This is really a struggle between the civilized world and a band of extremists."

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