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There is no good in much of their secret conferences save (in) whosoever enjoineth charity and fairness and peace-making among the people and whoso doeth that, seeking the good pleasure of God, We shall bestow on him a vast reward. (Al-Nisa, 4:114).

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bernard-Henri Levy Urges Intervention in Syria: His Role in Libya as Example


2012-06-05-libyans.JPGBefore meeting with philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, famed for the last 30 years as the most flamboyant "public intellectual" of France, I felt wary -- if not mefiante. After all, I live in France, where the greater percent of the French people I meet will immediately go into passionate denunciations of this 63 year old man's narcissism, his self-aggrandizing missions to Bosnia and Sudan to save the world for democracy, and -- for some reason, a pet peeve -- his trademark white shirt buttoned six buttons lower than the average man's (to the "navel", they say, but I myself saw no bellybutton).
But I also felt wary for a more grounded reason: I had just seen Bernard Henri-Levi's new documentary -- about himself, and Libya, and himself -- at its premiere at Cannes. The film details BHL's (as he is called, familiarly, in France) pivotal role in lobbying Western forces to intervene in Libya to protect civilians and bring Gaddafi down. In a nutshell: stirred by moral imperative, BHL snuck into Libya through Egypt in the height of the rebellion, met with the NTC (the National Transitional Council) and then, with one phone call to his buddy Sarkozy, he arranged for key NTC leaders to be flown to the Elysee palace in Paris, where, on March 10, 2011, France promptly recognized the NTC as the legitimate governing body of Libya.

This recognition spurred, the documentary suggests, the resolution a week later, on March 17, by the Security Council to declare a no-fly zone for Libya, and on March 19, NATO began bombing, with French jets the first to enter the fray. Gaddafi fell in August 2011.

The documentary basically follows the passionate self-declared diplomat through his eight month sojourn in the revolution. It begins with men hanging in Libya, killed by Gaddafi, and then follows the rebels on their mission to overthrow the dictator, with BHL in almost every shot.
Throughout, the documentary makes BHL appear to be a major military consultant for the NTC: it is his idea, for example, to open a second front at Jebel Nafusa, which appears to be the strategy that determined the outcome.