Open letter From John Sweeney
JOHN SWEENEY, The Observer, 19 April 1998
Dear Bernard-Henri Levy, You must have found the news from Relizane a cruel blow. But evidence is evidence. That the Algerian authorities have arrested their own officials on suspicion of the mass murder of 17 villagers is astonishing news. It is proof that it is not just ‘Islamist’ fundamentalists who are to blame for the killing in Algeria . The Algerian military junta, which you have supported with such vigour, and its servants, kill too. And the news from Relizane makes celebrity philosophers such as you and your friends on the French Left, who have bought the junta’s line, appear credulous fools, as naive as your part name-sake, George Bernard Shaw, who went to the Soviet Union and declared: ‘I have seen the future and it works.’ He saw Stalinism and was conned.
Your support for the Algerian junta sits at odds with the evidence in the open, with the reports of Amnesty International, with the testimony of the clients of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, with what any Western journalist with half a brain can glean within a minute of looking into the eyes of a ninja on the streets of Algiers. If the junta is a good government fighting Islamic terrorists, why has it refused entry to the United Nation’s missions on extra-judicial killing and torture? On your return from your recent trip to Algeria , you wrote an article which appeared in English in the European. You wrote: ‘The question of who is killing whom is itself an obscenity, as if you needed to add doubt and confusion to the horror.’ That was sweet music for the junta. It says that the village massacres are the work of crazed Islamists. To cast doubt on their line is ‘to add doubt and confusion to the horror. . .’ After Relizane, you must realise that you have been wrong to solely identify the Islamists as those responsible for the violence. You should apologise now, and remember that the first duty of any public figure, and especially of one who boasts that he is an intellectual, is respect for the evidence. Otherwise, you will be remembered in history as an unwitting apologist for murder.
And a fool.