Libya Tribune

By Patrick Haimzadeh

Saturday July 25, 2020, Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL ) attempted a “return” to Libya. It was as brief as it was failed. Arrived the same morning by private jet at Misrata airport, he had to cut his trip short and leave in the evening. What had he come to do? 

Revelations on the disappointments of a displacement of which we do not know the exact reasons.

In case some would have missed the first episode of the adventures of Bernard-Henry Lévy in Libya in 2011, the “new philosopher” has decided to offer a new opus of his self-promotional peregrinations in the war zone. 

The one who prides himself on having worked for freedom and democracy in Libya and having convinced Nicolas Sarkozy to intervene militarily to protect the Libyan people has indeed returned to this country this Saturday, July 25.

In the book recounting his adventures in 2011, The War Without Loving It – Diary of a Writer in the Heart of the Libyan Spring , Lévy described in detail his two clandestine trips in 2011 to Libya, by road in February 2011 then by boat. few weeks later. 

His last memorable appearance in the country, on September 15 of the same year, alongside Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had come to celebrate the victory against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, had been for him a grandiose apotheosis.

Did the writer, who dreamed of himself as Lawrence of Arabia then have in mind these images of Lawrence accompanying General Allenby during his victorious entry into Jerusalem on December 11, 1917?

Still, on the video of the event, we see BHL trying by all means to be visible in the group photo, returning to the field several times before being dismissed each time by the protocol services.

This time, our “writer who doesn’t like war” opted for a faster and less “literary” mode of transport and landed aboard a private jet at Misrata airport. But what was this eminent defender of peoples ‘rights going to do this time in Libya, who did not have a word to criticize Paris’ support for the war started more than a year ago byMarshal Khalifa Haftar?

A new mission of good offices in the service of his friend Emmanuel Macron, as he would have said to some of his Libyan interlocutors? A journalistic report? Mystery.

The same mystery remains on the invitation procedure of BHL in Libya. 

The mayor of Misrata claims to have not been informed of this visit and, more seriously, the presidential council and the government of National Accord in Tripoli claim to have never validated this stay. 

Would BHL have trampled on the sovereignty of the young Libyan state and thought that it could free itself from the regulatory procedures to which all foreign visitors are bound, starting with obtaining a visa?

A RIDE IN AN ARMORED CAR

His program initially scheduled to last two days included talks with leaders of armed groups in Misrata and a small tour in the towns of Tarhuna (recently liberated from pro-Haftar troops) and Al-Khums on Saturday, July 25, as well. that an interview the next day with the Minister of the Interior Fathi Bachagha, himself from Misrata.

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned for our journalist writer. Although organized by wealthy and influential businessmen from Misrata, the visit to BHL was therefore limited to an armored car ride.

The military actors from Misrata who were supposed to meet him declined, the local authorities in Al-Khums refused to meet him, and the BHL convoy was blocked at the entrance to the town of Tarhuna by local units and forces from the national accord government. 

Shots were fired into the air as proof of their determination to deny him access to the city, and our brave writer was good enough to stay safe in his armored car with the consolation prize of a photo stop on the way back, in front of what appear to be collective tomb excavations. Just enough time to return to Misrata and board his private jet to leave Libya in the evening.

If the objective of BHL’s visit was to restore the image of France in western Libya after its support for Marshal Haftar, it is a complete fiasco. 

As for the report, besides the photos of BHL disembarking at Misrata airport and those in front of piles of earth supposed to be collective graves, it will be difficult to publish anything other than stolen photos of the interior of his armored car or the breathless tale of Tarhuna’s “shootout”.

There is no doubt that our writer will know how to turn this masquerade to his advantage. His contacts in the many French media will allow him to tell about his new Libyan adventures. We can imagine his story punctuated by the soundtrack of the “ ambush ” that groups “Islamists”or bandits, necessarily enemies of freedom and democracy.

Meanwhile, BHL’s latest Libyan getaway has already had serious consequences in Libya.

Accused of having been involved in the preparation of this visit without having informed the presidential council, the Minister of the Interior Fathi Bachagha is the target of numerous attacks and criticisms.

In Misrata itself, this case also created tensions, exacerbating existing fault lines and divisions. If BHL prides itself on not liking war, it is clear that it delights in it. As for the Libyan people and their sovereignty, they are for our writer with grandiloquent speeches the last of his worries.

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Main Image: Tripoli, September 15, 2011. Bernard-Henri Lévy in the midst of Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, in the company of the president and the prime minister of the National Transitional Council (CNT) Moustafa Abdel Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril.(Eric Feferberg /AFP)

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Patrick HaimzadehFormer French diplomat in Tripoli (2001-2004), author of the book Au cœur de la Libya de Gadhafi, Jean-Claude Lattès, 2011.

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