A group of leading French intellectuals and politicians make the case for immediate Western intervention in Libya, including possible military strikes against Gaddafi’s forces.
Time is pressing in Libya. Day after day, hour after hour, the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with his murderous army of airplanes, helicopters, tanks, missiles and mercenaries, is retaking his country and crushing the efforts of the Libyan people to break free. The tyrant seems determined to drown his country in "rivers of blood" -- machine-gunning civilian populations, "purging" the towns of his opponents and sowing terror. Everywhere, in Tripoli and the other regions retaken by Gaddafi's forces, large numbers of men have been abducted, taken to torture cells and murdered.
Western nations are unanimous in their condemnation of the mad dictator. But the G8 has yet to take any concrete action. They have dithered, multiplied the diplomatic conditions that would be necessary for invention and given excuses to justify their inaction. There have even been cynical suggestions that intervention would be an act of neo-colonialism, which would put the West at odds with the Arab people.
Can't they hear the requests of the Libyan rebels, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Gulf Cooperation Council? They have all called for a UN Security Council resolution to impose a no-fly zone in Libya. Arab leaders have understood that if they want to have a say in the future of the region (and for many of them, if they want to retain their place) they cannot side with dictators who crush their revolutionary youth.
Nobody knows what will be the final outcome of the "Arab Spring". Nobody knows who will rule in Libya "post-Gaddafi." It is unclear what role the Islamists will play in the region. But one thing is certain: whether or not democracy is won now, whether it takes six months or 20 years, Arab youth is hungry for freedom. They will not forget the countries and the leaders who by their inaction effectively sided with the executioner.
The rebels, who shouted "Vive la France!" and "Vive l'Europe!" when it was announced that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the European Parliament had recognized the National Transition Council of Libya, are now in a desperate situation. They are poorly armed, poorly trained and extremely vulnerable in the face of the heavy artillery deployed by Gaddafi.
How can we continue to watch day after day the inexorable advance of the dictator? Do we have to wait, as some have advocated, that the level of killing is sufficiently high? How many bloodied bodies will it take? If we don't intervene, what will we do when the madman has regained power? Are we already resigned to the fact that, like after the horrors of Rwanda, we will be saying: "Sadly, we were helpless. Sadly, we were cowards?"
We are neither military experts, nor professional diplomats. In the name of what are we sending out this S.O.S? In the name of memory. When Nazi planes and Spanish Fascists bombed the people of Guernica on April 26, 1937, the civilized world did not react. Picasso later painted the atrocity, which was only fully understood eight years later. Today, once again, the killers are one step ahead of world opinion.
We do not know what is the best way to intervene, what would be most effective or the lowest risk for our soldiers and civilians. Nobody is asking for or indeed wants the deployment of Western troops in Libya. Should we bomb the airfields and the radar systems? Take control of Libyan skies? Destroy the Libyan air force through targeted strikes? Scramble communication systems? We only know one thing: we must intervene quickly. We need to act to give new hope and strength to the rebels, weaken Gaddafi, make him worry about this future and his security, halt his savagery and most of all reassure Arab youth who still believe that change is possible and that dictators do not always prevail.
We urgently call on the French government to do everything in its power with its partners to ensure that the United Nations honors its commitment to the concept of "Responsibility to Protect", and that Europe takes its responsibilities seriously and proves that its desire to see the Libyan colonel ousted is not just wishful thinking. There is an urgent need for the United Nation's Security Council to agree to a mandate for intervention, rather than serving once again as an alibi for our inaction in the face of a crime.
It is not for the Russian and Chinese governments to force to us to stand-by and watch Libyan democracy be massacred. We need to act now, immediately. It is time to be done with the executioner.
Collectively signed by:
Historian Nicole Bacharan, artist Jane Birkin, writer Pascal Bruckner, European Parliament member Daniel Cohn-Bendit, philosopher André Glucksmann, former cabinet minister, Nicole Guedj, publisher Gilles Hertzog, former Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, philosopher and member of the editorial board of Le Monde Group Bernard-Henri Lévy, publisher Oliver Rolin, publisher Olivier Rubinstein, writer Dominique Simmonet.
Read the original article in French