LONDON, United Kingdom, April 26 – Celebrated French philosopher, academic and journalist Bernard-Henri Levy addressed an assembly at Westminster. Levy is touring his latest film, The Battle of Mosul, selected screenings of which have been attended by parliamentarians, opinion makers and journalists. Levy spoke candidly about the horrors he witnessed on the front lines with Kurdish Peshmerga and the Golden Division of the Iraqi Army, driving ISIS from the territories within and around Mosul.
Levy opened by outlining his hatred and revulsion of war. Referencing Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas he gave an impassioned ‘Just War’ interpretation of the military action against ISIS. Reiterating several points from a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Levy mentioned his prodigious admiration for the Kurds and the centrality of their role in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. Levy praised the Kurds for their moderate, enlightened and progressive religious and political outlook. He recounted a story from the making of an earlier film Peshmerga during which he was taken to the birthplace of former Israeli Defence Minister, Yitzhak Mordechai in Akre in Northern Iraq. Levy explained that this was a “place of honour” to the Kurds. He was praiseworthy of the strong pro-Western and pro-Israeli tendencies of the Kurds, highlighting this as a special feature of the Kurdish identity. His cri-de-coeur was for further Western support to assist Peshmerga fighters in current and forthcoming battles against ISIS in Mosul and Raqqa.
Levy spoke pointedly about the French presidential elections, which he characterised as resembling a “Mexican telenovela.” He determined the essential qualification for candidates was to be “anti-system.” Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen he suggested were not alone in their anti-system, anti-establishment political philosophy. He lamented media analysis of the election and the “obscenity” of the dissection of the public performance and demeanour of candidates. Voters he posited had been reduced to “supporters.” He felt that the political system had become a grotesque “spectacle”, a low point in French political history. Levy referred to the “decapitation of a series of kings” in the treatment of potentials including Hollande, Sarkozy and Juppe.
With self-described “cold blood” and calm derision, Levy scorned the position of the French left, particularly of Melenchon’s failure to immediately endorse Emmanuel Macron against Le Pen in 2nd round voting. Melenchon’s invalidating attitude towards Macron was a mistake he likened to failure of the Germany Communist Party in the 1930s to distinguish between social democracy and fascism.
Levy spoke of a ‘republican reflex’, a unifying anti-Fascist reaction that delivered an 82% landslide victory for Jacques Chirac in the 2002 presidential election against Jean-Marie Le Pen. Referencing Donald Trump’s election in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK, Levy warned of the dangers of being blindsided by populism. If the ‘republican reflex’ is not fatally weakened, then Levy sees the ‘best case’ as a small margin win for Macron. In the worst possible case he worried, Marine Le Pen might be ultimately victorious, either by failure of the left or by the seductive power of extreme populism.