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A Reply -- With Regret -- to Claude Lanzmann

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Whatever has possessed Claude Lanzmann to express this crazy recantation, condemning (Le Monde, 17-18 April) the anti-Qadhafi operation he had earlier (Le Monde, 16 April) so ardently hoped and prayed for?

How can a man of his character put on a show of such capriciousness--one day signing a petition calling for France to intervene, and then, just four weeks later, condemning the same intervention and betraying his own signature?

How can it be that the author of Tsahal, this film about an army, one of whose absolute rules is to spare no technical prowess in order to preserve to the maximum the lives of its soldiers, could, out of the blue, make a case for "the zero dead option" ?

Is it really Sartre's companion who, caught up in his new fury against "long range" war, launches into this praise, so reminiscent of the 30s (Montherlant, the Drieu la Rochelle of La comédie de Charleroi ), of "man to man" combat and its great phallic carousel?

When one has consistently supported every struggle against every dictatorship for the past fifty years, has one the right to write an entire article where one cannot find harsh enough words to mock the "thoughtlessness" of young resistants who "take to their heels" when they find themselves face-to-face with tanks--and yet is incapable of finding one word (apart from a very bizarre aside: "none among us likes Kadhafi, has had anything to do with him, has ever negotiated with him") to denounce the butchery of professionals of death whose shells, by the way, are launched from a distance of 40 kilometers on civilians who are nearly always unarmed?

One day, we'll have to clear this up.

I have too much respect for this man, too much admiration for Shoah and for his book of memoirs, Le Lièvre de Patagonie [The Patagonian Hare], not to try to understand how he comes by this sudden fascination for a bloodthirsty clown, one his pen has transformed, as Jean Baudrillard's once did Mohammed Atta, into a "devil wizard" who "strikes" our strikes with a "strange weakness".

But right now, one must reply.

We must react to the series of approximations, flimsy propos, or falsehoods people might take at face value due to his immense prestige--and that would be tragic.

A falsehood--though a venial one--the fact that it was "friendly pressure from me" that led him to sign the appeal that he renounces, and de-signs, today

A falsehood--more serious this time--the idea that the friends of free Libya announced air strikes that "would only go on for a few days". Had they taken place earlier, when Qadhafi's son (and not Qadhafi himself, as Lanzmann too hastily writes) promised to drown his people in "rivers of blood", yes, perhaps "a few days" would have sufficed, but certainly not thereafter. On the 19th of March, when French aviators stopped the first tanks in the suburbs of Benghazi, no one would have ventured to establish such a precise schedule.

Rashness, unbelievable and incomprehensible rashness, to use the word "kamikaze" to describe the "technology" of allied aviation.

A falsehood, again, the claim that, in the ranks of the Qadhafist soldiers and mercenaries, "the victims are innumerable and nameless" --and this in a text containing not one thought, I repeat, for the other victims, the real ones: the civilians of Zaouia or of Zeiten, under heavy artillery fire, the wounded at the hospital of Misrata, shamelessly shelled, and the last and heroic inhabitants of Ajdabiya, forced, as in Sarajevo, to live in their cellars.

Falsehood, again, that calls to mind the propaganda that so often infuriated us or made us laugh, Lanzmann and me, the angry denunciation of an operation in the process of laying waste to Libya. Come on, Claude! Come along the next time! You'll see with your own eyes, in Benghazi, Beyda, Tobruk, that it is Qadhafi's men, not the French pilots, who have ruined, broken, wrecked this poor country!

Puerile, concerning Qadhafi again, and at a time when, precisely, consideration is being given to negotiating a way out for him, the peremptory claim that "it's left unsaid, he must die".

Puerile as well the sentence where Lanzmann, caught up in his desire to sound like an expert, regrets that headquarters "forces an excessive number of sorties" on our "aircraft".

And I won't even mention the good old rhetorical parry--which one is disappointed to find under his pen--arguing that yesterday's cowardice (Mitterrand, Chirac, Sarkozy, all of them buddy-buddy with the great financier of international terrorism) justifies perseverance in inaction today.

I believe, contrary to Claude Lanzmann, that this anti-Iraq war (a limited operation, authorized by the United Nations, requested by the Arab League and destined to put an end to anticipated carnage) is a first and will mark a milestone.

I believe that this anti-Bosnia (three years, then, of non-intervention !) which is also an anti-Rwanda (an international community that sat on its hands, waiting for the massacre to be accomplished!) honors an era in which we have finally understood that a man's home is not always his castle.

And I am convinced, indeed, that Qadhafi will leave and allow the Libyan people to decide, alone, their own destiny.