Without French help, the opposition in Libya will have no chance. The
person responsible for this is described by this article. We should
always appreciate any help that people give to us, especially when it
can tip the balance of success or failure. Of course, the young people
who fought for their rights in Libya should be congratulated but to be
real heros, they must win the fight. Otherwise, they will just be
fighters, fighting for justice. In order to win, we must use our
brains and must never be too arrogant. We must request for help
whenever we can. Many people will just help without even asking for
anything in return. Of course, it is our courtesy to repay their
kindness whenever we have the opportunities.
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April 1, 2011
By His Own Reckoning, One Man Made Libya a French Cause
By STEVEN ERLANGER
BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY, 62, is such an inescapable figure in France — of
mockery, admiration, amusement, envy — that he is by now
unembarrassable. Making his mark young as a philosopher, he was
satirized neatly by a critic with the words: "God is dead, but my hair
But in the space of roughly two weeks, Mr. Lévy managed to get a
fledgling Libyan opposition group a hearing from the president of
France and the American secretary of state, a process that has led
both countries and NATO into waging war against the forces of the
Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
It was Mr. Lévy, by his own still undisputed account, who brought top
members of the Libyan opposition — the Interim Transitional National
Council — from Benghazi to Paris to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy on
March 10, who suggested the unprecedented French recognition of the
council as the legitimate government of Libya and who warned Mr.
Sarkozy that unless he acted, "there will be a massacre in Benghazi, a
bloodbath, and the blood of the people of Benghazi will stain the flag
Mr. Lévy, a celebrated philosopher, journalist and public
intellectual, gives Mr. Sarkozy sole credit for persuading London,
Washington and others to support intervention in Libya.
"I'm proud of my country, which I haven't felt for many years," Mr.
Lévy said in an interview. "When I compare Libya to the long time we
had to scream in the desert about Bosnia, I must agree that despite
all our disagreements, Sarkozy did a very good job."
He is known simply as B.H.L., a man of inherited wealth, a socialist
whose trademarks — flowing hair, black suits, unbuttoned white shirts,
thin blond women — can undercut his passionate campaigning on public
causes, including stopping genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, strong
support for Israel and an early critique of France's unthinking
fascination with Communism, revolution and the Soviet Union.
His flamboyant advocacy has annoyed many in the past, including the
current foreign minister, Alain Juppé, who seemed largely excluded
from Mr. Lévy's Libyan initiative. Mr. Lévy negotiated directly with
Mr. Sarkozy, with whom Mr. Lévy has an extremely complicated
relationship going back to 1983.
While they were friends and once vacationed together, Mr. Lévy openly
supported Mr. Sarkozy's Socialist opponent in the 2007 presidential
election; Mr. Sarkozy then married Carla Bruni, who had broken up the
marriage of Mr. Lévy's daughter, Justine, who wrote a novel about it.
Still, Mr. Lévy also had close ties with François Mitterrand and
Jacques Chirac, using his media and family connections — the
industrialist François Pinault is his godfather — to push for action
on the most pressing human rights issues of the day.
BUT he has outdone himself on Libya, playing to Mr. Sarkozy's vanity
and need for success as well as gratifying his own, and it is hard to
say who used the other more.
It is an extraordinary tale, about which neither the Élysée Palace nor
the Foreign Ministry wished to comment, other than quietly urging a
grain of salt. Mr. Lévy was in Egypt at the tail end of the Tahrir
Square uprising, went to the Libyan border but had pressing business
in Paris. But on Feb. 27, before returning to North Africa, he called
Mr. Sarkozy, asking if he was interested in making contact with the
rebels. He was, so Mr. Lévy rented a plane and flew to Marsa Matrouh,
the Egyptian airport closest to Libya.
Accompanied by his oldest friend and longtime collaborator, Gilles
Hertzog, and, of course, a photographer, Marc Roussel, Mr. Lévy walked
across the border past hundreds of yards of refugees and foreign
workers and flagged down a car, which was delivering vegetables every
20 miles on the way to Tobruk, the first Libyan city inside the
border. He then went to Bayda, where he found Mustafa Mohammed Abdul
Jalil, the former Libyan minister of justice and leader of the Interim
Transitional National Council.
On March 3, Mr. Lévy attended an early meeting of the council with Mr.
Jalil in Benghazi in a colonial villa by the sea. He made a little
speech about liberty and justice, said that Mr. Sarkozy was a
political descendant of Charles de Gaulle, and asked if they would
like him to call Mr. Sarkozy and try to arrange a meeting.
Unsurprisingly, they said yes, but first insisted that France "make a
gesture." Mr. Lévy called Mr. Sarkozy on an old satellite phone and
Mr. Sarkozy agreed. On Saturday, March 5, France issued a press
release, largely unnoticed everywhere except in Benghazi, greeting the
formation of the transitional council.
OVERNIGHT, Mr. Lévy said, French flags festooned Benghazi, with a huge
tricolor on the court building serving as opposition headquarters. On
Sunday, Mr. Lévy drove the 10 hours back to the airport and flew back
to Paris, and on Monday morning called Mr. Sarkozy on a better phone
line and went to meet him. They agreed, he said, to keep the
initiative a secret, even from the Foreign Ministry, though Prime
Minister David Cameron of Britain was informed Wednesday evening.
On Thursday morning, a Libyan delegation, headed by Mahmoud Jibril,
the de facto foreign minister, sat with Mr. Lévy in Mr. Sarkozy's
office. There Mr. Sarkozy agreed to recognize the opposition as the
legitimate government of Libya, which shocked other European capitals
and the French Foreign Ministry alike. He agreed to exchange
ambassadors and to bomb three airports when he could.
According to Mr. Lévy, Mr. Sarkozy said he would work on getting
international support and a United Nations Security Council
resolution, but if he failed, he and Mr. Cameron might go ahead anyway
with the mandate of the European Union, the Arab League and the
African Union. Mr. Sarkozy swore them to secrecy on this "Plan B," but
told them to speak of everything else as they liked, Mr. Lévy said. He
said Mr. Sarkozy told them, "My resolution is total."
Convincing Washington was crucial. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton was coming to Paris for a Group of 8 foreign ministers'
meeting on Monday, March 14, and wanted to meet Mr. Jibril. The Qatar
Embassy facilitated his travel from Doha, Mr. Lévy said, and he went
to Bourget airport to pick him up for a scheduled 4 p.m. meeting with
Mrs. Clinton. But the Élysée had not been informed, and Mr. Jibril was
held for two hours, until 5 p.m., before he was allowed into France.
The meeting was rescheduled for 10 p.m. at Mrs. Clinton's hotel after
a Group of 8 dinner at the Élysée.
Mr. Lévy brought Mr. Jibril, who was staying with him, to the hotel,
spent a few minutes with him and Mrs. Clinton, then left the room as
the two spoke for nearly an hour. Afterward, Mr. Jibril was
disconsolate, believing that he had failed to sway Mrs. Clinton. He
insisted on leaving the hotel through a back entrance, to avoid
At Mr. Lévy's apartment he, Mr. Hertzog and Mr. Lévy, all of them
depressed, stayed up until 2 a.m. on March 15 writing an appeal to the
world, what Mr. Lévy called "our last card." But they did not issue
it, and at 3 p.m., Mr. Sarkozy called Mr. Lévy to say that "the
American position is shifting."
Mr. Sarkozy then hit the phones, Mr. Juppé flew to New York and by the
time of the Security Council vote, on Thursday, March 17, Washington
voted along with France and Britain for a resolution authorizing the
use of force in Libya to protect the civilian population, while Russia
and China abstained. That night, Mr. Sarkozy called Mr. Lévy to tell
him, "We've won."
On Saturday, March 19, as Mr. Sarkozy hosted a luncheon summit on
Libya, the opposition called frantically for help. Qaddafi forces had
reached the suburbs of Benghazi. That afternoon, France began the
bombing, to general political applause at home, even from the
Socialists. Mr. Lévy feels that he has helped to save lives and that
Mr. Sarkozy has done the right thing, leading a diplomatic effort to
intervene to save the entire "Arab spring" and "all the hopes it has
He claims to be indifferent to those who mock him. "What happened is
more important than all the criticism," Mr. Levy said. "We avoided a
bloodbath in Benghazi."