Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

Libya: Dotting All the 'i's

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Madame Le Pen encourages boos when she mentions my name at her rallies.

She never misses a chance to shower me with insults, sometimes rather filthy ones.

And this woman who feeds on all that afflicts the French soul, who speaks of France only to describe it as debased, humiliated, soiled by imaginary vermin, this friend of Arab dictators, Austrians nostalgic for Naziism, and the factious of all countries, in short, enemies of her country, has, what's more, the nerve to present me as a representative of the anti-France.

In and of itself, all that is of scarcely any importance.

And there are people one does not respond to, simply as a matter of principle.

Nonetheless, one point.

One point, just one -- for it touches on the essential and one cannot permit that utter rubbish be said and accredited concerning the essential: the war in Libya.

I shall ignore the malicious pleasure the candidate with the sleazy grin takes in systematically associating my name with the incumbent president. This "Libyan" association honors me as, in this affair, Nicolas Sarkozy proved exemplary (determined, courageous, faithful to my own idea of my country's values). It simply neglects the fact (but it's not really serious) that our association, as I have always made it clear, lasted exactly as long as this unprecedented war, this unheard of savagery with which civilians were threatened with destruction by an Arab Nero, after which politics reasserted itself, each of us returning to our original loyalties -- in my case, for the past forty years, more or less fervently, on the left.

However, I cannot in all conscience let the following points pass.

1. The idea that, in the person of Kadhafi, we should have brought down a secular dictatorship, hostile to terrorism. It is absurd. And, to mention only them, the thousands of victims of the Irish IRA, the passengers murdered at Lockerbie and on UTA flight 772, or the victims of antisemitic attacks carried out by Abu Nidal and other Palestinian extremist groups sponsored by Kadhafi know it is absurd.

2. The idea according to which his fall should have created regional disorder, of which the civil war in Mali is but the first episode. As though Tuareg successionism, throbbing since the revolt of Kaocen in Niger in 1916, dated from the death of Kadhafi! As though the territorial unity of the country were not in question for the last half-century at least! And as if the thousand ex-Kadhafist mercenaries who passed the frontier in January, after their master's demise, posed a problem to Mali (when they met up with the independence-seeking rebels of Azawad), but had never been a problem in Libya (when they had spread terror and murdered en masse).

3. The idea, repeated ad nauseam, that post-Kadhafist Libya is the prey of tribal divisions that would have had the effect, among others, of already splitting the country into two, even three, entities. Of course, this is false. And it is not because self-styled delegates unilaterally announced the creation of a "Provincial Council," lacking power and resources and, moreover, immediately disclaimed by the lifeblood of the populations of Benghazi and Tobruk, that the country should already be federalized!

4. The image of a Libya that, once aided in its self-liberation, has been turned over to the partisans of radical Islam and submission to Sharia. False again. False and ridiculous. One leader, only one, Mustafa Abdeljalil, has expressed anything about this up until now. He did so on September 13th, during a meeting in Benghazi where he, indeed, expressed the wish to see civil laws decreed null and void if they did not conform to divine commandments. But that was a personal opinion. He had neither the power nor the pretention to substitute himself for the Constituant Assembly which, alone, will have a mandate to map out the contours of the future Libya. And it should be noted that no other Libyan figure of moral or political authority has adopted this proposal as his own.

5. And finally, as for the description of a country handed over to the will, when it is not the savagery, of militias over which the authorities have no control, it takes the crass ignorance of the Front National "experts" to have put that in the poor candidate's head. It happens that, with my friend Marc Roussel, co-author of a future film on the Libyan revolution, I recently returned to Tripoli. Alarmed by the reports of NGOs telling of ill treatment inflicted by the victors on those vanquished waiting for judgment, we demanded permission to enter the prisons of Misrata and to film inside them. And I can reassure those who, bombarded by disinformation, may have been shaken: there are no checkpoints at every intersection in Libyan cities; one breathes the air of liberty, even the memory of which had been forgotten for forty years, and the jails of Misrata are neither gulags nor, especially, the antechambers of death they were in the times of the "Guide."

That Madame Le Pen, faithful on this point, as on so many others, to her father, is entitled to be nostalgic for tyranny and to think the Arab world is destined to humiliation and slavery. It is also her right to refuse, for example, to have a word, just one, of compassion for the civilians of Homs and Aleppo, who suffer the exact same situation those of Benghazi would have had the international community, with the impetus of France, not reacted swiftly and with force. But it is my own right to revolt when I see her, day in and day out, sullying the most uncertain but the most promising event of the dawn of this 21st century.