Sunday, August 26, 2007


The philosopher André Glucksmann, the writer Pascale Bruckner and the director Romain Goupil have signed an appeal in favour of military intervention in Iraq to liberate the people from dictatorship. This current of thought, however, remains a minority.

They are aware that they are going against the general trend. For these intellectuals, who speak openly in favour of an intervention and a change of regime in Iraq, it is now a matter, after a period of doubt, of setting a date. Although on one hand their arguments resemble those of the first Gulf War, on the other hand the climate has changed. At the beginning of the 1980s allusions to the “spirit of Munich” served above all to criticise the pacifists. A line that continues to have its supporters, though more discreetly. Partly because the pro-war faction, although fairly well organised, is an extreme minority, unlike 12 years ago.

This is proven by an ISPSO survey (carried out for France 2 on 7 and 8 March) on the opinion of the French people about the Iraqi crisis: 25% of the population believe the American position to be justified, and support is stronger on the right than on the left (36% against 17%). “We are discordant voices,” admits André Glucksmann, who together with the writer Pascal Bruckner and the director Romain Goupil has signed an appeal entitled “Saddam must go, whether he likes it or not” (Le Monde, 10 March 2003).

Behind this appeal is the long discussion “between people who are used to being in a minority,” he states. Starting out from the conviction that Saddam Hussein “is more cruel than Milosevic, and more dangerous”, and recalling that they began to call right from 1991 for a halt to the policy of ethnic cleansing conducted by the former President of the Yugoslavian Federation in Croatia and Bosnia, the three intellectuals are indignant that behind the anti-Bush slogans the peace demonstrations hide the suffering of the Iraqi people at the hands of the regime.

“The intervention in Kosovo was not conducted under the aegis of the UN,” states the philosopher. “Sometimes the UN is incapable of making decisions. In Rwanda or in Cambodia, for instance. In view of this, while in 1978 I supported the South Vietnamese refugees with the ‘a boat for Vietnam operation’, despite this I applauded the armed intervention by Vietnam against the Khmer Rouge so that they could put an end to the massacre taking place!” Strongly opposed to the war in Chechnya, he is distressed by the constitution of a “peace axis” around Jacques Chirac with the participation of China and Putin’s Russia.

This position is beginning to spread outside France. On 12 March the culture section of the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung carried an article about Glucksmann. And in the International Herald Tribune Glucksmann criticised Paris and Berlin for repeating “the arguments of Stalin’s ‘Peace Movements’ during the Cold War”. “I would not be able to live with myself,” he told Le Monde, “if I did nothing to prevent Saddam Hussein remaining in power until his death.” And, he adds, “As a citizen, I have chosen to send out a signal to my friends in the countries of Eastern Europe, for I feel ashamed about what has happened.” He is alluding to Chirac’s scathing criticism of the EU candidate countries who signed an appeal to present a united front with the United States - an appeal that was signed, among others, by the former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

Bernard Kouchner has expressed positions similar to those of Glucksmann and Goupil. Another human rights campaigner, Jacky Mamou, former President of Médecins du Monde, believes that “from a humanitarian point of view, the duty to interfere continues to exist, especially in the face of a regime that violates human rights and for which the UN should create an ad hoc international criminal court.” “In fact,” he writes in an internal MdM circular, “the agenda of the great powers and of the UN is not that of the humanitarian organisations. There can, however, be military interventions that are dictated by the wrong motives but that alleviate the suffering of tortured peoples.” He is concerned, however, about the consequences the war will have on the Iraqi people, already seriously weakened by sanctions.

Still at an informal level, those who are opposed to the dominant position of hostility towards armed intervention are beginning to make contact with each other. On Saturday 8 March the UMP deputy Pierre Lellouche invited a certain number of intellectuals in favour of a war against Iraq, or at least doubtful about the idea of maintaining the status quo in Baghdad: André Glucksmann, Alain Finkielkraut and Romain Goupil. Another appeal, signed by the historian Pierre Rigoulot, director of the Istitut d'histoire sociale, was published in Le Figaro on the occasion of the anti-war demonstration on Saturday 15 February, on the initiative of Michel and Florence Taubmann, pastor of the Oratory of the Louvre: among other things, the text of the appeal suggests that “the fall of the Iraqi dictator will serve as a warning to North Korea”. Debates between various experts take place on a regular basis at the Oratory. Among those who have joined the appeal in Le Figaro there are a certain number of intellectuals and historians specialised in critical readings of the history of Communism, like Illios Yannakakis or Jean-Louis Panné. “Among researchers who have worked on the history of Communism, some of whom come originally from the far left, there is a concern to place the defence of democracy above the Gaullist maxim of independence,” comments Rigoulot, a specialist on North Korea. The sociologist Samuel Trigano of the University of Paris-X, the author of the book L'Ebranlement d'Israel(published by Le Sueil) is also among the signatories of this text.

“We reject a consensus that ranges from Krivine to Le Pen,” says Taubmann, who believes the situation to be “complex” and who says he is more in favour of military pressure than of war as such. He is against a French veto whose consequence, beyond the Iraqi question alone, could be the fall of the most pro-European British Prime Minister in the country’s history.

Nicolas Weill