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An Open Letter to President Hollande Concerning the Syrian Disaster

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At Cannes, the film I shot during the seven-month campaign for the liberation of Libya was shown in the presence of two Syrian fighters who were able to leave their country clandestinely.

At the very moment the film was being shown, one of the most horrifying carnages perpetrated since the beginning of this other war, the one Bashar al-Assad has been conducting against his people for over a year, was taking place at Houla, in Syria.

His face masked by the rebels' flag, this is the declaration one of the two Syrian fighters made before the press that day:

I have just seen the film of our French friend about my Libyan brothers, about their war of liberation, about the aid they received, without which they would be dead. I am a soldier. I wept. My tears were an expression of my emotion, but also of my anger. We, the Syrians, are dying. Where are the French and English planes, the planes of our brother countries? Where are the arms that came from all over to the fighters in the Libyan desert? Where are you, friends of freedom? Why do your governments no longer hear your voice, your appeals? Why are they afraid of Assad, they who had no fear of Kadhafi? Why? Why? We can win the war for freedom. With you. Help us. Please. Thank you, France.

Mr. President, I wish to cite these words while the toll of this cold-blooded slaughter at Houla, committed with heavy weapons, grows greater hour by hour.

I wish to pass on to you this appeal for help, just as the images of these 32 children in the city's small morgue, their skulls smashed, their faces reduced to pulp, appear before us.

And, as it is my turn, I wish to ask you a direct question:

Will France do for Houla and Homs what she has done for Benghazi and Misrata?

Will you use your considerable personal credit, and that of our country, to come back to our allies of yesterday and, with them, with Great Britain, the United States, the Arab League and Turkey, map out a strategy that goes beyond the "unwavering support for the Annan mission" mentioned in the press release from the Elysée, this Monday at 6:00 PM?

Will you see to it that the group of countries friendly to the Syrian people, among whom, thanks to our galvanizing role in Libya, we enjoy a decisive influence, reflect upon the rapid enaction of one or several of the options already on the table, waiting only for a captain: security perimeters at the Jordanian and Turkish frontiers, proposed by Qatar; the idea advanced by the Turkish Foreign Affairs minister of "no-kill zones," creating a sanctuary, at the heart of the country, for elements of the Free Syrian Army equipped with defensive weapons; zones in the sky where death helicopters are banned and, on the ground, where armoured vehicles transporting troops and war materiel are forbidden?

Or will you let yourself be overwhelmed by the defeatism of the Norpois who have always been proven wrong, still predicting, on the eve of the fall of Tripoli, a "quagmire," and who now go about everywhere muttering Syria-is-not-Libya, and Assad-is-not-Kadhafi or that Russia-and-China-will-inevitably-veto-it -- the result being that we do nothing, we risk nothing, we continue to sit here idly in the face of the atrocities?

I know, Mr. President, that you have other urgent matters, another agenda, commitments you have made and that you must keep.

But what was most urgent -- to go to Afghanistan and prepare the anticipated retreat of our troops or to take the initiative in Syria?

What is the most important -- to announce the reduction of your ministers' salaries and the freezing of gas prices or to introduce a resolution, at the Security Council, authorizing the bombardment of those tanks stationed on the outskirts of the cities, ready to fire?

Reassure the Franco-German couple, let Angela Merkel get to know you better, save the euro -- these are imperative obligations -- but save a people? And in what way do the dramatic events in Greece prevent you from picking up the phone, as your predecessor did, to convince your Russian and Chinese counterparts that their blind support for Syrian State terrorism dishonors and weakens them?

We met, at your request, on January 27th, when the electoral campaign began.

I had reminded you that, on March 10th, 2011, before the Libyan emissaries who had come to ask France's aid, Nicolas Sarkozy had intimated that if the Security Council should block a resolution demanding respect for "the responsibility to protect" that is one of the obligations of the United Nations, he would fall back on a reduced version of legitimacy based upon the support of the European Union and the Arab League.

On that day, you seemed, retrospectively, to believe that to be a reasonable course of action.

You seemed, especially, to share the idea that Assad is no stronger than Kadhafi once was -- and that, in reality, his power depends upon our abstention, our laisser-faire attitude, our cowardice.

This is one of the reasons I voted for you.

I hope I was not mistaken.

As the masked Syrian fighter said: Let's not be afraid of this paper tiger.