Qui a tué Daniel Pearl?, de Bernard-Henri Lévy
Other pages about BHL on this site O O
QUEM MATOU DANIEL PEARL?,
VIDA E CULTURA n.º 168,
Editora Livros do Brasil
therefore I am off to Afghanistan
France sends philosopher to Kabul to muse about plight of Afghans
Jon Henley in Paris
Saturday February 9, 2002
Some countries would appoint a parliamentary fact-finding mission. Others might ask a team of international aid experts. But to find out what war-torn Afghanistan needs most, only France would send a philosopher.
President Jacques Chirac and his prime minister, Lionel Jospin, this week entrusted France's most flamboyant intellectual, Bernard Henri-Lévy, with the mission of explaining to them "the expectations and needs of the Afghan people" and thus "contributing to the economic, political and cultural cooperation France can offer that country".
"It is an honour, a heavy but beautiful honour," said Mr Henri-Lévy, who, after 20 years of fighting fascism, marxism, anti-semitism, totalitarianism, terrorism and fundamentalism from Bosnia to Bangladesh, is accorded the kind of adulation in France that most countries reserve for their rock stars.
"To those who say Afghanistan needs deeds not words, I say that there are words that carry the weight of deeds, texts that are also acts. Look at some of the writers I admire most, Sartre, Malraux, Hemmingway - you never knew if they were writing their lives or living their books."
Following in a long French tradition of the "engaged intellectual", from Voltaire through Zola and Hugo to Sartre and De Beauvoir, Mr Henry-Lévy, known by his initials BHL, first shot to fame in the 1970s when he founded the New Philosophers group and its revolt against the leftwing thinkers dominant at the time.
He is a debonair fixture on French television talk shows, writes a weekly column in a leading magazine, and has published some 25 philosophical works including a French bestseller titled Reflections on War, Evil and History published after September 11.
Born in Algeria in 1948, BHL has been fighting the good fight since 1971, when he was apparently the only Frenchman to answer André Malraux's call for an international brigade to fight in Bangladesh.
His first major book, Barbarism with a Human Face, caused a sensation in France in 1977, starting with a phrase that became a slogan for a generation: "I am the illegitimate child of a diabolical couple called fascism and Stalinism."
Since then, the showman-philosopher has helped set up Radio Free Kabul (in 1981), co-founded the anti-racism group SOS Racisme, launched many reviews and films (including the acclaimed A Day in the Death of Sarajevo).
"He's easy to attack, of course," said Liliane Lazar of the Simone de Beauvoir Association. "He's a provocateur and a media darling. His passion, eloquence and lyricism make him an easy target. But he has the gift of distilling the universal from the events of the day. He's on a permanent crusade for human dignity and you can't ignore him."
As part of his credentials for the job, BHL, 54, cites his long friendship with the late anti-Taliban resistance leader Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, whom he first met in 1982, and his many contacts in the Afghan resistance .
"France, at long last, is trying to do something for Afghanistan," he said. "I will listen to my friends there, then I will write up my findings.
philosophy went through its spinozist althusserian phase, it still believed
thinking could equate to doing." The people of Afghanistan do not know what is
about to hit them.
Financial Times, weekend 23/24 August 2003
Thinker in front of the flashbulbs
Only in France could a philosopher garner more attention than a rock star. Jo Johnson meets the headline-making intellectual.
So much for the promise of a discreet table. La Colombe d’Or, the fashionable auberge in the fire-ravaged hills above Nice, cannot resist the chance to flaunt a megastar such as Bernard-Henri Lévy. The man so famous in France that he is known just by his initials – BHL – clearly outranks the rock stars in the eyes of the maître d’. Noel Gallagher of Oasis and his noisy blonde friends have been pushed into a corner. Low-wattage French celebrities have been relegated to the terrace. Lévy, France’s most famous man of letters and noble causes, is to take centre stage.
The weapons of the intellectual engage – laptop, mobile phone and his freshly typed column for Le Point, a leading centre-right French weekly – are strewn across the table. But the great man, who once rented a suite in this legendary hotel before moving a few yards up the hill into Saint-Paul-de-Vence, is nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later, faxed article in hand, he appears framed in the doorway, his handsome features bathed in the last of the evening sunlight. His trademark white shirt is open pretty much to the waist and would be revealing a muscular, tanned chest were it not at that moment tenderly fondled by a slender, younger woman, the talented actress and singer, Arielle Dombasle.
BHL and Dombasle are France’s most glamorous couple, a modern-day Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. Exchanging smouldering glances, they disentangle themselves from their public display of unrestrainable lust, looking as if spontaneous applause might not be out of question. With a waist said to be the thinnest in Paris, a pronounced pout and the self-confident look of someone Paris Match described as one of the 10 most beautiful women in the world, Dombasle turns every head in the restaurant as she skips over to a nearby table of friends, leaving her husband to have dinner with me.
For more than 25years, Bernard-Henri Lévy has been an unavoidable figure in the Parisian literary and media world. With the imminent English-language publication of his latest book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, an investigation into the murder of The Wall Street Journal reporter, the BHL phenomenon will soon go global. Vanity Fair devoted eight pages of its January issue to a breathless article comparing him to Charles Baudelaire, Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, André Malraux, T.E. Lawrence and King David. It also told the story of how the first time Dombasle saw a photograph of him, she mistook him for Jesus Christ.
Born into a family of lumber merchants in French Algeria in 1948, Levy grew up in Paris, where he studied under Louis Althusser, the Marxist theoretician, at the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure. But his own flirtation with Maoism and the far left did not survive for long after the failure of the 1968 student rebellion. Aged 28, Lévy used his insider’s knowledge of the publishing industry, ained as a precocious editor at the Grasset publishing house, to launch the nouveaux philosophes, a group of writers determined to break the stranglehold of Marxism over French thought. Lévy’s contribution was La Barbarie à Visage Humain, a book that denounced communism as an excuse for totalitarian savagery.
Loathed by the left, it started with a phrase that bexame a slogan for a generation: “I am the illegitimate child of a diabolic couple called fascism and Stanilism”. But it found a receptive audience among intellectuals still reeling from Slozhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. As the French letf’s monopoly of political debate crumbled with every new revelation of communist atrocities, Lévy’s youth, wit and good looks offred an attractive alternative to a Marxism that suddenly appeared démodé. He cultivated an image of a libertine, cruising around Paris in flashy cars and styling himself as a connoisseur of women.
In the intervening years, BHL has enjoyed a gilded existence – one that is only possible in France – as one of those brilliantly plumed peacocks known as intellectuels. In a country whose elite is formed through education rather than birth or wealth, intellectuels, especially the 40 “immortals” who can sign their guest op-eds with the words “of the Academie Française”, are top of the pile. It explains why philosophy, training in which is the hallmark of the civilised man, is still the first exam sat every summer by candidates for the baccalaureat; why book programmes command near-prime time slots on French television;and why the French state’s expenditure on education as a proportion of gross domestic product remains, at 7 per cent, considerably higher than the OECD average.
But intellectuels are also emissaries of French culture, moral guides and unofficial diplomats. Like his friend Bernard Kouchner, founder of Medecins sans Frontières, Lévy is one of a number of non-government agents who help France battle for hearts and minds across the world and, occasionally, outmanoeuvre the more conventionally armed American “hyperpuissance”. He has spent the pas 20 years fighting fascism, Marxism, anti-Semitism, totalitarianism, terrorism and fundamentalism from Bosnia to Bangladesh. While averaging a book a year, he has found the energy to put his ferocious intelligence to work in many other forms. He made acclaimed films, such as Bosna! in defence of Bosnia’s Muslims, and A Day in the Death of Sarajevo. Ha has also been an important institution-builder, helping to set up Radio Free Kabul and co-founding the anti-racism group SOS Racisme.
“I am someone who thinks he can influence things”, he says. “France, as Karl Marx said, is the country of politics, of the revolution and of universalism. It’s these factors that maximise the role of the intellectuel and which maybe explain why there such a large place given to these bizarre personages, intellectuals, who proclaim “le vrai, le juste et le bien”, and who see a great nobility in political causes. It contrasts with the empiricism, pragmatism and intellectual modesty of the Anglo-Saxon world, where there’s a caution when it comes to the universal. In England, politics is not a noble calling. It’s a normal social activity – perhaps it’s better like this. “
In February 2002, his diplomatic role was made official when President Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin, his socialist prime minister, agreed – itself a rare enough event - to appoint him their special envoy in Afghanistan with a brie to advise them on the role French culture could play in a future aid programme. The idea of France sending a philosopher to a war zone was greeted with amusement internationally. At a tie when the US was deploying combat aircraft, missiles and special forces to eradicate Taliban forces sheltering al Qaeda terrorists, Lévy’s arrival in Kabul captured the essence of the deep and longstanding differences in the way the world is viewed in Washington and in Paris.
But on Paris’s Left Bank, where Lévy and Dombasle maintain one of their sumptuous residences, his recommendations were received in deadly earnest. Le Monde, the pre-eminent newspaper of the French establishment, devoted more than 3 000 words to extracts from the 100-page report, which Lévy submitted in April 2002. Its somewhat surreal proposals included training Afghan army officers at Saint-Cyr, the French military academy; the creation of an “Afghan Ecole Nationale d’Administration” to imbue the civil service with Cartesian rationality (“We did it in Algeria, why not in Cabul?”); the establishment of a French cultural centre in Kabul: and the formation of a crack team of “hussars to spread the values of 1789” through the Afghan towns and villages.
Lévy, of course, does not receive only respectful attention, even in France. He is regular fodder for the satirists of Les Guignols, an irreverent television programme in which personalities are portrayed as grotesque puppets. When the BHL puppet speaks it is pounded into silence by cream pies. This is a reference to the fact that Lévy has been entarté by Noel Godin, the Belgian pie thrower, on a record half a dozen occasions. Godin says the type of person who will admit to feeling ecstatic at the discovery of a new shade of grey is a constant provocation. The reactions of his victims, who range from Jean-Luc Godard to Bill Gates, is revealing. Lévy, it seems, does not see the funny side. At one flanning, the apostle of tolerance delivered a flawless uppercut. Footage of Lévy shooting at Godin, “Get up, or I’ll kick your head in,” was repeatedly broadcast on French television. The Belgian has promised to end hostilities only when Lévy and Dombasle sing the Maurice Chevalier ditty, “Avez-vous Vu le Nouveau Chapeau de Zozo?”, in a public duet.
More important, Lévy’s place in the pantheon of French thinkers is far from assured. His dilettantism riled professional academics early in his career. The New York Review of Books set the tone for much subsequent criticism in 1980 when it slated his third book, Le Testament de Dieu. “Little can be said about Lévy’s position precisely because so little of it is ever argued”, wrote Professor Thomas Sheehan, Stanford’s Heidegger specialist. “He makes his points by rhetorical tropes, wide-ranging historical references (“Consider the Middle Ages”, he advises, or the span of history “from Epictetus to Malraux”), or by citations from books that he evidently hasn’t read or has poorly digested (a reference to a work by Stalin in the Russian, which Lévy does not read, a reference to all of Clement of Alexandria’s mammoth Protrepticus, which he has not studied, an so on)”.
A quarter of a century on, received academic opinion seems to have changed surprisingly little. Will the BHL oeuvre speak across the ages? “ I would think not”, says Professor Gary Gutting, author of French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century. “The emerging consensus is that the work of Lévy and the other nouveaux philosophes is mostly journalistic and does not engage with the big philosophical issues. He wrote a great biography of Sartre, he’s a very smart guy and, as a celebrity type, makes a great story, but he’s not a great philosopher”.
Lévy’s latest book, Qui a tué Daniel Pearl ?, which comes out in the US next month, pushes the philosophy to one side altogether. He was in the office of Afghan president Hamid Karzai when he heard of Pearl’s death and decided to write about the journalist he never met. He felt that Pearl’s murder was a seminal moment, “one of three events, along with the assassination of Massoud and Deptember 11th, that ushered in the 21st century”, whose defining feature will be the battle with Islamic fundamentalism.
Il seems clear that Lévy also saw himself reflected in Pearl, whom he calls his “posthumous friend” and to whom he attributes many of his own characteristics: “A Jew of the left, a progressive… a friend of the uncounted, the universal orphan, the disinherited”, as well as a firm believer in the possibility of a moderate Islam.
Lévy was fast. The 530-pages book (400 in English) took a little over a year to write, and it is to his credit that it bears few traces of being a rush job, even if, like many French books, is suffers from a lack of an index and poor copy-editing. On one page, early on in the book, for example, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber on the Paris – Miami flight, is called Charles Reid, while Anthony Giddens, the director of the London School of Economics, is rechristened Christopher.
Otherwise, it’s a copper-bottomed investigation, a well deserved hit that has sold nearly 200 000 copies in France. Lévy travelled to Los Angeles to talk to Pearl’s family about his final, videotaped words; to London and Bosnia on the trail of the plot’s LSE-educated mastermind. Omar Sheik; to Dubai, on the terrorist’s money trail; to the Karachi hovel where he was murdered nine days after his kidnapping.
He approached the subject “as a writer, philosopher and journalist” and has ended up producing what he called a “romanquête”, a cross between a roman (novel) and an enquête (investigation). As far as this type of non-fiction novel goes, it is on a par with Osvald’s Tale, Norman Mailer’s attempt to unravel the assassination of JFK, but not as grittily realistic and controlled as In Cold Blood, the product of Truman Capote’s six-year investigation into the unexplained murder of a family of four in rural Kansas.
“There’s a long tradition of writers much greater than me – Malaparte, Sartre, Foucault, Hemingway – turning their hands to journalism without abandoning their identity as writers”, Lévy says. “But the word romanquête is mine. The genre enables one to go further, to make the bridge between the facts, to discover more things”. The boundaries can sometimes be unclear, Lévy says he has only allowed himself artistic licence under strict conditions, the most important of which is that he must feel confident that he fully understand his characters. “I think I am among those people on this planet who know Omar Sheik well”, he says. “Having studied Daniel Pearl so closely, I think that I know him as well as it is possible for a foreigner who never met him… when you really know someone from the inside, when you extrapolate from the facts available, then you have a good source”.
Lévy believes the reporter kidnapping and murder was essentially a “crime of state” that implicates parts of Pakistani government and, in particular, its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). That conclusion is not particularly original. Tariq Ali said much the same thing in his analysis of the Pear murder in The Guardian. The author of The Clash of Fundamentalisms argued that hardline Islamic groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkatul Ansar, who claim responsibility for acts of terrorism in Pakistan, are probably just shell organisations controlled by the ISI. Sections of the ISI who patronised, funded and manipulated these organisations were livid at Musharraf’s “betrayal of the Taliban” and at being forced to unravel the only victory they had ever scored – the Taliban takeover in Kabul.
What is new in Qui a tué Daniel Pearl? is the idea that the journalist was murdered because he “knew too much”. Lévy claims that Pearl was on to al Qaeda to gain access to Pakistan’s nuclear technology. In other words, that Pearl was not killed because he was American and Jewish, as his last videotaped messages seem to suggest. It is an interesting thesis, but one which Lévy does not succeed in nailing down entirely satisfactory. It is particularly frustrating that Lévy has failed to persuade The Wall Street Journal to talk to him. If anyone knew what leads Pearl was pursuing during his days in Pakistan, it would have been the American newspaper. However, for reasons unknown to Lévy, Pearl’s employer refused to cooperate with his investigation.
In fact, The Wall Street Journal has since gone one step further by undermining the entire thrust of Lévy’s thesis. In an e-mailed response to the FT’s questions on the subject, the newspaper said: “We have published everything we know on this topic. We have no reason to believe Daniel Pearl was pursuing any article focused on a conspiracy against Pakistan, North Korea and al Qaeda such as that suggested in Bernard-Henri Lévy’s book. The Wall Street Journal was not involved in any way in the preparation of this book. However, we urge all the authorities involved in the investigation to review the book to see whether it provides any useful information which could help in the effort to bring Danny’s killers to justice.”
Lévy is a compulsive worker: his self discipline as a writer is legendary. In addition to turning out his widely read weekly column for Le Point, over the past three years he has published the seventh of his series of Questions de Principe, a 400-page book entitled Reflexions sur la Guerre et le Mal et la Fin de l’Histoire, the 100-page report for President Jacques Chirac on Afghanistan and now the book on Pearl. At 55, BHL is probably in his prime. “How can we tell?” he asks. “We will only know retrospectively. I am working very hard but then I have worked enormously hard for 25 years because that’s what I feel I must to do.”
Jo Johnson is an FT correspondent in Paris, and the co-author, with Martine Orange, of “The Man who Tried To Buy the World: Jean-Marie Messier and Vivendi Universal”
“Who killed Daniel Pearl?” is published on September 1 by Melville House Publishing at $25.95
BHL’s acclaimed biography of Jean-Paul Sartre “Sartre: The Philosopher of The Twentieth Century”, is published in English this month (Polity Press £ 25/ $29.95)
By ALAN RIDING
PARIS, Aug. 29 — Bernard-Henri Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed. He is an intellectual adventurer who brings publicity to unfashionable political causes. He is also a handsome man married to a glamorous actress; he and his wife, Arielle Dombasle, are regularly mentioned in French gossip magazines. Now 55, Mr. Lévy is well used to celebrity. For 25 years he has been known here simply by his initials, B. H. L.
Not that everyone takes him seriously. His carefully cultivated public persona, which includes black suits, unbuttoned white shirts and long, dark hair, is frequently mocked on a televised puppet show, and he is often hit with pies by a Belgian who claims to target the self-important. The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné once asked of him, "Rimbaud or Rambo?"
Yet France has always had a place for high-profile intellectuals, from Victor Hugo and Émile Zola to Jean-Paul Sartre and André Malraux. And from an early age, Mr. Lévy set off in their footsteps. He earned his spurs in the late 1970's as one of several "new philosophers" who enraged the left by attacking the Soviet Union. He then turned his guns on the right, warning that 1930's-style fascism was still rooted in French politics.
Since then he has constantly been in the limelight. He has tried his hand at fiction, theater and movies (although his only feature film to date, "Day and Night," starring his wife, was a flop). And he has continued to campaign for what he considers noble causes, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, from Afghanistan to Bosnia. In a book published in 2001, for instance, he wrote of forgotten wars in Sudan, Angola, Burundi, Sri Lanka and Colombia.
What most annoys his critics, however, is that Mr. Lévy is often the star of his own stories. And the complaint has been heard anew about his latest book, in which he sets out to solve the murder of Daniel Pearl, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, who was killed after his kidnapping in Pakistan on Jan. 23, 2002. Yet, conversely, if the book has sold more than 200,000 copies here since April, it is also because Mr. Lévy's name and passion continue to draw French readers.
Now, with the publication next week of the English translation of "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" (Melville House Publishing), Mr. Lévy is entering unknown territory. Not only is his name less known in the United States than Mr. Pearl's, but the question also arises as to why a French intellectual should investigate the murder in a far-off land of a man who was an American, a journalist and a Jew.
"If I had to pick, I'd say it was because he was Jewish," said Mr. Lévy, who is himself a nonpracticing Jew. "Amid my shock at his death was the realization that we were entering a century in which a man could have his throat cut for saying, `My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am a Jew.' As I read his work, I also understood he was not just a Jew. He was a Jew who believed in reaching out to moderate Islam. And I recognized myself in his way of being Jewish."
But there was another reason, Mr. Lévy explained in an interview in his comfortable Left Bank apartment. "I am hardly a fan of today's American government — I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning — but I am nonetheless strongly anti-anti-American," he said. "I am alarmed by the way anti-Americanism is becoming globalized. Through Danny Pearl's experience, I had the feeling that the idea of America as a magnet for the worst was becoming a global phenomenon."
Mr. Lévy nonetheless tells the story as a narrative of his own investigation, something that irritated some French critics. "B. H. L. is an intellectual whose most accomplished work is the construction of his own biography," Pierre Assouline, editor of the literary monthly Lire, noted acidly. Others were more generous. In Le Monde, Alain Frachon said he found the book convincing. And, writing in Le Figaro, Jean de Belot praised it as "a splendid journey to better understand the fragility of the world."
Mr. Lévy was on a diplomatic mission to Afghanistan for President Jacques Chirac when he heard of Mr. Pearl's death. After completing his work in Kabul, he flew immediately to Karachi, returning to Pakistan for the first time since 1971. And in his airport taxi, he already sensed how the country had changed. "What is your religion?" the taxi driver asked him. He was taken aback. "Atheist," he finally replied. "My religion is atheism."
He said he first imagined writing a long report for Le Monde, but was soon drawn into a more ambitious project, one that he felt equipped to carry out.
"I don't think any American newspaper would have taken the risk of sending a journalist — especially a Jew — in the steps of Daniel Pearl," he said. "I had the luck of being French, with the French position on the Iraq war well known. I still had a diplomatic passport. I played with ambiguities, telling people I was doing something I wasn't doing then: I was writing a novel, I was an official envoy. I was far less exposed than any American, although still at risk as a Jew."
He has assumed a different risk by writing what he calls a "romanquête," part roman, or novel, part enquête, or investigation. He mentions Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" and Norman Mailer's "Oswald's Tale" as precedents, but he has raised eyebrows by imagining the thoughts of Mr. Pearl as he was about to have his throat cut and those of Ahmed Omar Sheikh, the British-born son of Pakistani immigrants who is the convicted mastermind of the murder.
Most of the book, though, is reported on the ground. Mr. Lévy made five trips to Pakistan, two each to India, the United States and Britain, and one each to Bosnia and Dubai. And his conclusion is anything but fictional: that Pakistan's military secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, widely known as I.S.I., is deeply involved with both the Islamic fundamentalist groups responsible for Mr. Pearl's death and with Al Qaeda.
So why a romanquête?
"I am also a novelist, and I suppose that the book has a tone more of a writer than of a traditional researcher," said Mr. Lévy, whose earlier book, "Sartre: The Philosopher of the 20th Century" (Polity Press), has also just been published in English. "But the real reason is that, by introducing elements of speculation, it was possible to move forward when the investigation seemed stuck. There are moments when I have the intuition of a novelist, moments that serve as sparks to illuminate and advance."
He cited his decision to spend a night at the Akbar International Hotel in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where on Jan. 11, 2002, Mr. Pearl met Mr. Sheikh. Mr. Pearl had been told that Mr. Sheikh could put him in touch with Sheik Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, a Muslim cleric reportedly linked to Richard C. Reid, a Briton accused of using a shoe bomb to try to sabotage an American airliner en route from Paris to Miami. In reality Mr. Sheikh was preparing the kidnapping 12 days later.
Mr. Lévy said he had been fully briefed on the meeting by Mr. Pearl's assistant, Asif Faruqi, but his "novelist's instinct" told him to stay in the hotel. And what he observed, he said, led him to discover that the I.S.I. used the Akbar to house Kashmiri fighters and other Islamic radicals. In other words, he writes, Mr. Sheikh set up the meeting with Mr. Pearl in a hotel "controlled, almost managed, by the I.S.I."
The bulk of Mr. Lévy's investigation involved reading police and intelligence files and interviews. To help draw his admiring portrait of Mr. Pearl, for instance, he met the reporter's parents and widow, Mariane, who (unlike The Wall Street Journal) cooperated with him. (He has dedicated the book to Adam Pearl, the child that Mrs. Pearl was carrying at the time of her husband's death.)
In London Mr. Lévy interviewed Mr. Sheikh's brother, former friends and some fellow students from his years at the London School of Economics. He also tracked Mr. Sheikh's steady radicalization: his identification with the plight of Bosnian Muslims, his move to Pakistan, his jailing in India on kidnapping charges, his release in exchange for a hijacked Indian plane and his ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In Pakistan to verify details obtained from police records, Mr. Lévy visited the abandoned Karachi house where Mr. Pearl was killed. He met Pakistani officials who openly attacked the United States and, specifically, Jews. And with considerable trepidation, he paid an unannounced visit to the Sunni madrasa, or Islamic seminary, of Binori Town, where Mr. Sheikh is said to have slept some nights before the kidnapping.
More critically, as he advanced in his research, Mr. Lévy came to view the official Pakistani version that Mr. Sheikh acted alone as a cover-up for a far darker reality, one that placed Mr. Sheikh at the heart of a complex network of Islamic fundamentalist groups, many linked to the I.S.I. and Al Qaeda.
Less clear, Mr. Lévy admits, is why Mr. Pearl was killed. He nonetheless speculates that Mr. Pearl was pursuing evidence that Al Qaeda and North Korea were receiving nuclear secrets from Pakistani scientists with ties to the I.S.I. and fundamentalist groups. "In other words," Mr. Lévy writes, "I bet on a Daniel Pearl busy gathering proof of Pakistan's collusion between the leading rogue states and terrorist networks of the world."
Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, said the newspaper had no evidence that Mr. Pearl was investigating any such conspiracy. "The Wall Street Journal was not involved in any way in the preparation of this book," he said in a statement responding to the book. "However, we urge all the authorities involved in the investigation to review the book to see whether it provides any useful information which could help in the effort to bring Danny's killers to justice."
While Mr. Lévy does not hesitate to proclaim Pakistan itself a rogue state, he chooses to end his book on a conciliatory note, evoking moderate Muslims he has known in Bosnia, Algeria, Morocco and Afghanistan. "There is this gentle Islam towards which, in spite of everything, until the last minute, Daniel Pearl wanted to believe, as I want to believe," he writes. And he adds, "It was the true subject of this book — homage to my posthumous friend and a call for the sharing of light."
by ADAM GOPNIK
A summer of obsessions in France.
Issue of 2003-09-01
All summer long, Paris was intermittently spectacular and spectacularly intermittent. Even the brightest spectacles came and then, abruptly, went. Every hour on the hour after nightfall, the Eiffel Tower is forced to light up, for exactly ten minutes, in a crazy-quilt pattern of scintillating lights. The lights were put in for the first night of the millennium and taken down the following year, but they were such a hit that they have been permanently reattached to the tower’s girders and are turned on according to a schedule. Charming when it first appeared, the show now has something dutiful and undignified about it, like a society lady in her eighties wearing spandex and shimmying her hips; it’s nice to know she can do it on New Year’s Eve, but you don’t really want to see her doing it every night. Another strange, temporary summer spectacle is the Paris Plage, the absurd and touching brainchild of Bertrand Delanoë, who is the green and gay mayor of Paris. The Plage, an artificial beach that extends along the Right Bank of the Seine, from the Tuileries gardens to just past the Île Saint-Louis, complete with beach shacks, cafés, and strolling musicians, has been particularly welcome in the unequalled heat, which began in July and has lasted through the summer. (A hot day in Paris often ends with a sad cool breeze. These days haven’t.) The French genius for order, however, insured that the thousands of tons of sable that were shipped in by barge to make the Plage possible are neatly packed in linked wooden boxes—making the beach, in the end, the world’s oddest, longest, narrowest sandbox. What is startling is the gravity with which people stretch out in the sandbox and apply sunscreen and lounge in chairs and read books while the tourists walk by. In the early morning, the “bathers” go home.
Continuing the theme, most of the summer’s news was dominated not by Iraqis or Americans but by strikes—by part-time workers in show business, the intermittents du spectacle, as they call themselves. (It sounds just as odd in French as in English.) The history and the grievances of the intermittents du spectacle are hard to summarize, or, for that matter, to believe. Basically, for thirty years or so part-time actors and night-club bouncers and musicians in France have had a ridiculously generous unemployment-insurance deal, which, owing to the “precariousness” of their situation, lets them work for about three months to collect a year’s worth of unemployment insurance. The unemployment fund is a general one, and all workers contribute to it. The people who were paying the intermittents, producers and theatre owners, were perfectly happy to have the plumbers and electricians of France essentially subsidizing the out-of-work actors and actresses. It was understood to be a kind of cultural subvention, a way of keeping the theatre technicians, in particular, from having to leave the business in the long stretches between productions. (It was also a way for the C.G.T., the old French Communist-dominated union, to keep a stranglehold on film and theatre, for practical and, at times, ideological reasons.)
Eventually, though, the other unions rebelled against the arrangement and, this spring, made a more or less surreptitious deal with the bosses to alter it, on the rationale that an excellent remedy for the precariousness of the position of part-time actors already exists: it is called “waiting on tables.” Now the part-time actors would have to work three months out of every ten, for only eight months of benefits. At this, the intermittents went out on strike—a difficult thing to do when you are not working in the first place, but they managed it, holding marches that shut down the center of Paris, throwing bits and pieces of old film into the streets, and displaying sloganeering of a high quality. (One sign claimed to be quoting Marcel Duchamp: “The taste of a time is not the art of the time,” meaning that the waves of budget cutting or keeping should not be allowed to interfere with the sanctity of independent culture.) Then they set to work shutting down the summer music and theatre festivals, one by one—Aix, Avignon, and most of the music at the Paris Plage. (The Rolling Stones, however, were able to go on, for reasons that were not well explained but may have had something to do with E.U. regulations, or with a sensible French fear of Rolling Stone roadies.)
There was a widespread understanding, too, that the inherent theatricality and self-dramatization of French strikes were at last being placed in the hands of those who had been practicing for years for the opportunity to be theatrically self-dramatizing—for the moment when the manner of French striking became the subject of French striking. Even Jean Baudrillard, who turned the paradoxes over and over in his mind in Libération—the society of spectacle had at last produced a striking proletariat of spectacles—didn’t know whether to clap or to shake his head. For many people in France, it produced, surprisingly, a sense of dour hopelessness greater than that caused by any of the other strikes that have happened in France in the last eight years. It is one thing to have your country stopped regularly by truck drivers and railroad engineers; at least this has the savor of blue-collar rectitude. When the country and its joys can be shut down by part-time trombonists, however, something is wrong, or at least ridiculous.
The question of the intermittents was so pressing—omnipresent in the newspapers and on television—that there was little room left for the Americans. With the egocentrism that is our national character (and which we call “innocence” and others “arrogance”), Americans in Paris were full of apprehension about their welcome, only to discover that they were regarded as less worrisome than your son Gilles, the failed actor. Paris Jazz, the commercial classic-jazz station, played its twenty-four hours of Prez and Billie; the Lacanian psychoanalysts in the pages of Le Monde praised Ang Lee for giving us the Oedipal life of the Hulk; the event of the summer was the rerelease of “Wanda,” a film by the forgotten American feminist filmmaker Barbara Loden. The special summer feature in Le Figaro was a happy, undisturbed account of a trip taken on the old Route 66 by a French journalist. (“The gastronomy,” he concluded gravely, “is, frankly speaking, peculiar.”) Nothing remotely like the overtly poisonous anti-French propaganda of the Murdoch media could be found anywhere in Paris. Whatever bad feeling there might be took the form of mordant jokes (butcher to American customer: “Say hello to George for me”) and a certain defensive pride. Even the Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, every day announced how much France likes America, insisting that only Iraq divides us.
A kind of generalized anti-Americanism, not simply opposition to the war in Iraq, does exist, but it has become “a routine of resentment, a passionless Pavlovianism,” rather than a critique of United States policy, as the historian Philippe Roger concluded in “L’Ennemi Américain” (“The American Enemy”), a recently published six-hundred-page tome devoted to the subject. Anti-Americanism, though of course it has life as a muttered feeling, has almost no life as an idea or an argument. Even in its strongest and most overt form, it tends to be Olympian and condescending rather than vituperative.
The most effective and most talked about of the new anti-American texts, Emmanuel Todd’s “Après l’Empire” (“After the Empire”), argues, through a series of analogies to the Roman and Athenian Empires, that America has, slowly in the Clinton years and more vigorously since 9/11, drifted away from a “soft” universalist imperialism of culture and toward a “ hard” military imperialism. This military imperialism, however, is too weak to put on more than “micro-theatrical military displays”—intermittent spectacles—against limp opposition. Resorting to such “Triumphal Arch” imperialism, Todd points out, is always a sign that the empire is finished. (One of his cleverer points is that the trappings of a service economy—lawyers, bards, and attendants—replicate the condition of a Roman imperial household more than that of an industrial community.) Todd’s book is actually rather compassionate. It’s all over, and has been for years. We’re just too dumb to know it.
Far more lucid and arresting, and just as likely to sell books and get attention, are the views of the anti-anti-Americans—that small but loud bunch of philosophers and journalists who share the American conviction that September 11th was an epoch-marking event, and that how open societies react to it will help determine how open they get to remain. Though members of this group can be counted on the fingers of one hand (with room left over for a thumb and a pinkie), they are in a way the most potent of contemporary French thinkers.
There are at least two kinds of anti-anti-Americanism, though the first, represented by Jean-François Revel, the old lion of French liberalism, is simply displaced nationalism. Revel’s new book, “L’Obsession Anti-Américaine” (“The Anti-American Obsession”)—which was a No. 1 best-seller in France for a month last fall—is a defense of the American nation so enthusiastic that it would embarrass George Washington’s mom. More interesting—for an American reader and observer, at least—are those thinkers who, because they have to defend American behavior without being in any way American nationalists, are forced to define a new kind of international liberalism.
“Anti-Americanism in France is always a magnet for the worst,” Bernard-Henri Lévy said one evening in July. He was sitting in the study of his apartment on the leafy Boulevard Saint-Germain, and even for a casual meeting he wore, as he has done in public for thirty years, an elegant uniform of black suit and open white shirt, the collar lapping over his lapels. B.H.L., as everyone calls him, who remains one of the central media figures in France, has had a great critical success with a book entitled “Qui A Tué Daniel Pearl?” (“Who Killed Daniel Pearl?”), which is, in a way, the most vivid and intensely realized of all the “pro-American” texts. It is an inquiry into the kidnapping and murder in Pakistan last year of the Wall Street Journal reporter, and will be published next month in English by Melville House Books. Unapologetically personal, the book recounts B.H.L.’s own investigation in Pakistan and India, and also in America, with sidelights on his previous campaigns in Bosnia and Bangladesh. One reason for its success in France is that it is written almost in the tone of what the French call a polar, a noirish police thriller, full of one-sentence paragraphs and portentous cliff-hangers (“He was the man who knew too much. But what did he know?”). It also attempts, on a deeper level, to paint a character portrait of the man who did kill Danny Pearl, or, at least, arranged his kidnapping: Omar Sheikh, the Islamist who was convicted in Pakistan last year. Like Mohammed Atta, he turns out to be not a barefoot wild-eyed Mahdi but a child of the West, London-raised and educated—the New Naipaulian Man, lost between two cultures, enraged at the West and mesmerized by a fantasy of Islam, only now armed with a total ideology and an A-bomb.
On a third level, “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” is a demonstration piece, a deliberate embrace by a French intellectual of an American journalist, and a book that insists that the death of an American journalist (and one who worked for the Wall Street Journal, at that) was as important for France as for America. B.H.L.’s purely political, or forensic, conclusion is that it is naïve to speak of Al Qaeda as an independent terrorist organization. At most a band of Yemenis and Saudis, the Al Qaeda of American imagination and fears—the octopus of terrorism capable of bringing tall buildings down in a single morning—is largely controlled by the Pakistani secret service, he says, and he concludes that Pearl was kidnapped and murdered with its knowledge. Pearl was killed, B.H.L. believes, because he had come to understand too much about all of this, and particularly about “the great taboo”: that the Pakistani atomic bomb was built and is controlled by radical Islamists who intend to use it someday. (He writes that Sheikh Mubarak Gilani, the cleric whom Pearl had set out to interview when he was kidnapped, far from being a minor figure, is one of Osama bin Laden’s mentors and tutors and has a network in place in the United States. John Allen Muhammad, the Washington sniper, Lévy claims, in a detail that, if not unknown, is unpublicized in the United States, had transferred from the Nation of Islam to Gilani’s sect shortly before he began his killing spree.)
The essential conclusion of this central Parisian thinker and writer is, therefore, not that the American government ought to be more conciliatory toward the Islamic fundamentalists but that our analysis of the situation and its risks is not nearly radical enough. “I am strongly anti-anti-American, but I opposed the war in Iraq, because of what I’d seen in Pakistan,” Lévy said. “Iraq was a false target, a mistaken target. Saddam, yes, is a terrible butcher, and we can only be glad that he is gone. But he is a twentieth-century butcher—an old-fashioned secular tyrant, who made an easy but irrelevant target. His boasting about having weapons of mass destruction and then being unable to really build them or keep them is typical—he’s just a gangster, who lived by fear and for money. Saddam has almost nothing to do with the real threat. We were attacking an Iraq that was already largely disarmed. Meanwhile, in some Pakistani bazaar someone, as we speak, is trading a Russian miniaturized nuclear weapon.”
The relentless first-person address of Lévy’s new book has been mocked—“Tin-Tin in Pakistan”—but its egocentrism feels earned, and even admirable. There are three kinds of writers addicted to the first person: the kind whose “I” remains a pillar of self-reliance, supporting the text (Camus and Bruce Chatwin are both masters of this sort); the kind whose “I”s magically become “you”s (Montaigne, Thurber); and then a third, rarer kind (Mailer, Malraux), whose insistent “I”s somehow become an extended and inclusive “we,” and who, through sheer lack of embarrassment about their own self-dramatization, end up enacting the dream life of their generation. B.H.L. is, or has become, in his last three books, a writer of that kind, and of that stature.
“The real issue, which the Americans don’t see, is that the Arab Islamist threat is partly manageable,” he went on. “One can see solutions, if not easy ones, to the Israeli-Palestinian question, to the Saudi problem. The Asian Islamist threat, though, is of an entirely different dimension. There are far more people, they are far more desperate, and they have a tradition of national action. And they have a bomb. Even North Korea is less dangerous than Pakistan—a Stalinist country with a defunct ideology and a bomb is infinitely less dangerous than a country with a bomb and a new ideology in the full vigor of its first birth. That is the real nexus of the terrorism, and fussing in the desert doesn’t even begin to address it.
“The French opposition to the war was opportunist in part, rational in part, but mostly rooted in a desire not to know. What dominates France is not the presence of some anti-Americanism but an enormous absence—the absence of any belief aside from a handful of corporatist reflexes. This whole business with the intermittents is typical: it’s corporatism pursued to the point of professional suicide. All that we have to replace it with is the idea of Europe; so far, we have overcome romantic nationalism, but we have nothing left to replace it with.”
Even the most resolutely anti-anti-Americans in Paris don’t know what to do about George W. Bush—no one since Joseph McCarthy has been such a gift to anti-Americanism in Europe, and particularly in France. Even the unprecedented heat that has swept Europe is provocative, people feeling that a warming so global might have something to do with global warming. The centrist journal Le Débat, in an editorial defending the American intervention in Iraq and criticizing the French government for opposing it, felt compelled to call the current Administration “perhaps the worst in American history.” What the French, from left to right, see as Bush’s shallow belligerence, his incuriosity, his contempt for culture or even the idea of difference—no one in France can forget his ridiculing an American reporter, on his one visit to Paris, for daring to speak to the French President in French—make him a heavy burden even for the most wholeheartedly pro-American thinker.
“No completely defensible cause has ever been so poorly defended as this one,” André Glucksmann said in his apartment, up in the Tenth Arrondissement, the day after Bastille Day. He was speaking of the case made for the war in Iraq. “The great mistake was to settle for the absurd argument about weapons of mass destruction. Had the appeal for war been made on straightforward humanitarian grounds—the case against Saddam, this guy is a killer, we can do something about him and we must—I know it would have worked in France. Look, Bernard Kouchner”—the co-founder of the humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)—“is the most popular political figure in France, beyond question, and the moment the war was broached he came out in support of it, on purely humanitarian grounds. He lost perhaps one per cent in the polls. The French think, Well, arms, everyone has arms, and the French élite knew the kind of thug and gangster that Saddam was—they had contempt for him—and they communicated that. But people really did learn something from Bosnia, and had the case been made resolutely that we had another Milosevic it would have worked.”
Glucksmann grimaced as he spoke, and then the grimace turned into a smile—of resignation, understanding, attempted forgiveness. It was the day after the French state routinely makes itself look foolish by parading new guns and old uniforms up and down the Champs-Élysées, and then makes itself look beautiful by setting off violet and gold fireworks outside the Eiffel Tower for an hour that same night. In the middle of the relentless heat wave, Glucksmann struggled to keep his cool and his good humor. On the page, he is relentlessly sardonic, and even sarcastic, but in person he bends toward bemusement. His long gray hair and strong, rather Russian-seeming face give him a bearing and intensity that one associates more with Eastern European intellectuals than with his suave and ironic countrymen. At sixty-five, he remains an original. Beginning in 1968 as an anarcho-Maoist, and as an ally of Sartre in the founding of Libération, he has made an exceptional journey, to end in a place that belongs to no one but him. Though he is staunchly pro-war (and comes as close to being pro-Bush as any Frenchman can, announcing that “underneath the carapace of the Baptist bigot there is someone who is a nearly Shakespearean figure, a man who has met tragedy and recognized it as such”), he is not really of the right. He is simply pessimistic.
Glucksmann believes that the only worthwhile “political” project is the constant, unrelenting, and most probably futile amelioration of obvious suffering. “It’s very odd that the idea of the doctor, and of medicine, predates by thousands of years the actual ability of doctors to help anyone in more than small ways. Why should it be?” he said once in a conversation. “Well, it’s because we recognize the presence of evil as being stronger than the promise of a cure. The simple Hippocratic oath, ‘First, do no harm,’ is a far, far more radical sentence in the history of thought than it seems. It recognizes the existence of evil—illness—that is in many ways beyond our control. It is the opposite of magical thinking, witch-doctor think, which promises to make well, to cure. ‘Do no harm’ is the truly radical sentence; ‘Cultivate your garden’ the unforgivable one.”
Above all, literature is for him the natural model of thought: he sees history through the lens of Chekhov and Dostoyevsky and Aristophanes. In the nearly two years since September 11th, Glucksmann has written two books, neither of which has yet been translated into English. The first, “Dostoyevsky in Manhattan,” is a strange, brilliant, nightmarish rumination, which sees in the attacks not some strategic rebound or medieval throwback but the evidence of a basic and essentially irrational will to destruction that has found a new home in the Islamic world. To explain the attacks with reference to a “cause”—poverty, or the Palestine question, or Islamic eclipse—is to miss their essential nature as surely as would reducing the Holocaust to flaws in the Treaty of Versailles. The second book, “West vs. West,” which he has just finished, is an acerbic, unhappy account of the Franco-American quarrels, rich in a kind of head-shaking disbelief at the unreality of both sides, but especially the French bien-pensant one. Both books point to the same moral. Mass killing has become, in our time, the means of expiating doubt and uncertainty, and the central reality of September 11th was that “a capacity for massive destruction, until then available only to a few, was suddenly in every hand, in countless pockets, and in millions of deranged minds.” Dostoyevskian killers were descending on Chekhovian cities.
“What’s happening is simple,” Glucksmann said. “There are no longer battles, or Auschwitzes. But anyplace can become an Auschwitz. ‘I kill, therefore I am’ is the motto of the new generation of murderers. It’s really very easy: the Hutus attacked with machetes and a few machine guns, and committed a genocide of a million people. The Russian Army blunders its way into Grozny, and no one cares or objects. Rwanda and Chechnya are the intimations of Manhattan—they are rooted in a will to kill no matter whom. The crime is to be,and the act is to kill: to be a Manhattanite on that morning was your crime, as to be a Jew was the crime in Germany.
“In France, the problem, more than a will against America, is a will to hide—to hope not to be seen at all. But it is insane for the French to see all this as somehow apart from them. It began against us. Nine years ago, the G.I.A.”—the Algerian Islamists—“who are a group of the same kind, hijacked a plane and were going to fly it into the Eiffel Tower! The only difference? They didn’t know how to fly a plane! They were trying to use the pilots to do their work. Seven years later, they knew how. So to imagine that we are somehow immune is not only crazy on principle—it is the direct opposite of what we know to be the facts!”
He shook his head. “There is a kind of nihilism at large in the world now, which ranges from the murderous nihilism of the terrorists to the comic, domestic nihilism of the intermittents, who have only the power to block, to destroy, and they use it.”
What is finally moving about the anti-anti-Americans in France is that they are defending a cosmopolitan tradition—the tradition of the Marshall Plan and the melting pot, where, as B.H.L. rhapsodizes, Daniel Pearl could be Jew and journalist and American and internationalist all at once—that they continue to identify, stubbornly and, these days, perhaps quixotically, with the United States. What is striking, and a little scary, in Paris this year is the absence of anti-Americanism—of a lucid, coherent, tightly argued alternative to American unilateralism that is neither emptily rhetorical nor mere daydreaming. (In fact, it is easier to find this kind of argument in Britain than in France.) The real threat to France is not anti-Americanism, which might at least have the dignity of an argument, an idea, and could at least provoke a grownup response, but what the writer Philippe Sollers has called the creeping “moldiness” of French life—the will to defiantly turn the country back into an enclosed provincial culture. “For the first time, French people care about their houses,” a leading French journalist complains in shock. “That was always a little England thing—and now you find intelligent Parisians talking all the time about home improvements.” This narrowing of expectations and horizons is evident already in the French enthusiasm for cartoon versions of French life, as in “Amélie,” of a kind the French would once have thought fit only for tourists. It has a name, “the Venetian alternative”—meaning a readiness to turn one’s back on history and retreat into a perfect simulacrum of the past, not to reject modernity but to pretend it isn’t happening.
This urge could be felt in an almost unconscious force deforming even the two major exhibitions of the summer, the Centre Pompidou’s Jacques-Henri Lartigue retrospective and the National Library’s show of the complete Cartier-Bresson, in which the two great photographers were suddenly made cozy and diminutive. The Museum of Modern Art’s outsize 1963 black-and-white prints of Lartigue’s photographs of speed and action were put on view in an anteroom only to be debunked inside, with all the albums and stereoscopes from which the great work was adapted put on view in “period” glass cases. See, the show said, he’s a little Frenchman, one of us, small and stylish and delectable and amateur. The refusal to live in the world as it exists is a kind of nihilism, too. It is possible to look into Lartigue’s work and see a modern visionary of dynamism and forward motion; possible, too, to make him a static and comfy mediocre artist of domesticity. It depends, perhaps, on just how spectacular you want things to be, and for just how long.
O n l i n e
Who killed Daniel Pearl?
Qui a tue Daniel Pearl?,
Reviewed by Pepe Escobar
The subject was not breached when "courageous leader" Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf was received by George W Bush at Camp David this week. They talked of the Hizb-i-Islami leading the anti-American jihad in Afghanistan, they talked of jihadis not crossing the Line of Control in Kashmir, they talked of Osama bin Laden hiding in the tribal areas. "Indispensable ally" Musharraf received a promise of US$3 billion - but no F-16s. But had Bush asked Musharraf who killed American journalist Daniel Pearl, one wonders whether Musharraf would have come up with a proper answer.
Bernard-Henri Levy's Qui a tue Daniel Pearl? (Grasset) is guaranteed to shake the foundations of neo-conservative land when an English translation is released before the end of the year. The book has become a best-seller in France, and subject to considerable media frenzy. No wonder: since his debut as a nouveau philosophe in the 1970s, BHL - a trademark signature - has meticulously fashioned himself to the status of dandy and arbiter supreme of the Parisian Left Bank intelligentsia. A brilliant, prolific writer coupled with shameless self-promotion, BHL always switched at ease from essay to film making, from Jean Paul Sartre to the gulag, from Bosnia to Charles Baudelaire, from trophy wife to a holiday palace in Marrakesh. Inevitably, he had to confront the top subject of the times - political Islam.
BHL starts his book on January 31, 2002, when Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was tortured and decapitated in Karachi, Pakistan, after being kidnapped by a bunch of jihadis. BHL describes his book as a romanquete - an investigative novel. It's in fact a variation on Tom Wolfe's and Guy Talese's new journalism: investigative journalism turbocharged by literature - sprinkled with a chic dash of metaphysical self-doubt. The literary influences are clear: Fyodor Dostoyevski and Baudelaire. BHL is fascinated by two main themes: the flower of evil (personified by Omar Sheikh, the intellectual mastermind of Pearl's ordeal); and the double (Omar the killer as the double of the sacrificial lamb Pearl). Most of all, BHL is fascinated by Pearl as his own double. Pearl was an American Jewish journalist trying to come to grips with radical Islam. BHL is an French Jewish writer trying to deconstruct radical Islam.
BHL had one year, plenty of time and resources and at least four trips to Pakistan to weave his plot. The agenda couldn't be more ambitious: BHL asks rhetorically "what, in the beginning of a new century, turns abjection into desire and destiny?" He tries to decode radical Islam, Osama bin Laden's "new terrorism", the "shock or non-shock" of cultures and civilizations; he wants to know whether "the crusader spirit and the combat against the 'axis of evil' are the adequate response to the current theological-political madness".
This all makes for gripping reading. BHL himself had already defined the best journalism as a mix of "urgency and exigence". He is a hell of a writer. But his whole journalistic-literary voyage - as fascinating as it turns out to be - ends up undermined by a fatal flaw. Stripped of ethnic, historical and political prejudice, BHL simply didn't get what Pakistan is all about. Something's wrong when a sophisticated philosopher and thinker tells us that Pakistan is nothing less than "the house of the devil".
Maybe this had something to do with his fixers. Every journalist working in Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar since the heady days of the anti-USSR jihad in the 1980s knows that a good fixer is the key to open Pakistan's multilayered Pandora's boxes. Alternatively, maybe this had something to do with BHL psychedelically identifying himself so much with his double Pearl ("my equal, my brother" - Baudelaire once again) that his hallucinations took over the narrative. For BHL, Pearl is a sublime martyr - while for many in South Asia he was little else than a Jewish American writer for the Wall Street Journal who landed in Muslim Pakistan from a spell in India without carefully assessing his new role.
BHL's first hypothesis is that between "the jihadis and the great liberal journalist, tolerant, open to the cultures of the world and a friend of Islam, there was a relationship of trust, almost of bonding". During the first part of the investigation, BHL tries to enter the mind of the sacrificial lamb; the next part is flowers of evil territory, BHL trying to understand Omar Sheikh's motives. BHL meticulously reconstitutes the last days and minutes of Daniel Pearl before he was beheaded by three subcontracted Yemenites in a desolate Karachi suburb. Omar Sheikh was to arrange the interview Daniel Pearl was so obsessed with: the interviewee would be Sheikh Mubarak Gilani, the leader of the al-Fuqrah subsect to which belonged the notorious shoe bomber Richard Reid.
From a literary point of view, the complex, secretive, tortured Omar character is infinitely more appealing than golden boy Pearl. But BHL chooses to interpret Omar as the Western double of Pearl: Omar himself was a Westernized Muslim, born in England and having received a perfectly English education. Omar's "master of terrorism" was Masoud Azhar, the leader of the Pakistani jihadi group Jaish e-Mohammed, "a mix of saint and serial killer", a definition that could also be applied to Omar himself.
In perfect Oscar Wilde mode ("Each man kills the thing he loves"), one of BHL's best intuitions is when he tells us where Omar - the personification of "evil" radical Islam - is coming from: "This enemy of the West is a product of the West. This ardent jihadi was formed in the school of the enlightenment and progress. This Islamist who will yell at his trial that he kidnapped Daniel Pearl because he could not stand the hairdressers of Guantanamo shaving the skulls of Arab prisoners ... is the product of the best English education ... So might terrorism be a natural son of a diabolical couple - Islam and Europe?
As Omar Sheikh is painted as a villain of anti-Christ proportions, there is also a sexual explanation for his rage: "Islamism and women ... This fear and sometimes this vertigo facing the female sex, I always thought they were the very basis of the fundamentalist desire ... the proof by Omar." BHL amplifies the sexual trauma of Islamists by probing Omar's "secret": he suffers because he is caught in a double culture, switching from Pakistan in England to England in Pakistan. His desire is to belong. One thinks of the Saudis who lived quietly for years in the West and a few hours before September 11, 2001, were going to a sex shop, flirting with a Mexican whore and window-shopping lingerie.
The book picks up speed when BHL starts making the inevitable connections between jihadis and the Pakistani intelligence services. An example is the famous September 11, 2002 raid by a "Pakistani power in panic that a "satanic interview" about to be broadcast by al-Jazeera proved that there was an al-Qaeda cell in the heart of Karachi. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, the all-important al-Qaeda operations chief, was not there at the moment and once again evaded capture. The operation against the alleged brains behind September 11, again on a September 11, was supposed to be a "birthday gift" from the Pakistani government to the US. This leads BHL to proclaim that the kidnapping, then the murder of Daniel Pearl was an initial response from dissatisfied sectors of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to an America-accommodating Musharraf: "Omar Sheikh, the Londoner who became a warrior of Allah, was instrumentalized by a branch of the ISI hostile to the evolution of Musharraf." A few pages later, we're entitled to a little more nuance: "Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and then murdered by Islamist groups manipulated, yes, by a faction of the services - the most radical, the most violent, the most anti-American ... This faction, from the beginning to the end of the affair, behaved itself as if it was very much at home in Musharraf's Pakistan."
The next step could only be the inevitable connection between ISI and al-Qaeda. An informant tells BHL "how everything started by the dismantling ... of a cell making fake papers for al-Qaeda clandestines"; and how the investigation led to "a trafficker specialized not only in fake papers but in the export of clandestine workers to Riyadh, 11 or 12-year-old kids selected in Karachi and Dacca to work as jockeys in camel races on the beaches of Dubai and, last but not least, al-Qaeda combatants exported, through the Oman Straits, to the Emirates, Yemen and other Middle East countries". This man, the real target of the anti-terrorist operation of September 11, 2002, was not Ramzi bin al-Shibh (who was arrested) or alleged September mastermind Khalid Shaikh (who was not there), but Saud Memon, the owner of the lot where Pearl was kept captive, tortured, executed and buried. BHL describes it as "a house belonging to a fake welfare organization which served as a front for bin Laden". He is referring to the Islamic NGO al-Rashid Trust, which after September 11 made it to the US list of terrorist organizations.
For BHL, the "house of the devil" - or "the terrorist Vatican" - par excellence is the legendary Binori town mosque in Karachi, which has educated many a Taliban. He takes us on a guided tour. The mosque is where Masoud Azhar, Omar Sheikh's mentor, founded Jaish e-Mohammed in the beginning of 2000, an "organization that would lend its elite battalions to al-Qaeda". The famous audio cassette of November 2002 where bin Laden talks about the attacks in Yemen, Kuwait, Bali and Moscow and renews his calls for jihad against the West, came from Binori town. For American, Indian and British intelligence, as well as for BHL, probably a raid on Binori town would be enough to dismantle most of radical Islam in Pakistan.
It will come as no surprise to anyone covering and following the "war on terror" that the best of BHL's sources reveals himself to be a Saudi lawyer in Dubai - the Arab capital of big money and privileged Oriental crossroads. The lawyer paints a striking picture of Islamism as pure business: after all "we draft the papers. We establish the contracts. And I can tell you that most of them don't give a damn about Allah. They enter Islamism because, especially in Pakistan, it's nothing other than a source of power and wealth." The Saudi lawyer confirms that "very few people in Pakistan become Islamists by conviction or fanaticism. They are just looking for a family, a mafia, capable of protecting them from hard times."
BHL is scandalized by these "jihad golden boys". And there's no doubt these Islamist golden boys are very much aware of Omar Sheikh when he leaves Indian jails - as he was one of the three militants exchanged for the passengers of an Indian Airlines jet that was hijacked and landed in Kandahar in Afghanistan in December 1999.
When BHL starts to follow the money, his investigation really takes off. It all starts with the famous $100,000 wired to September 11's chief operative Mohammed Atta's account in the US by one Ahmad Umar Sheikh, following instructions by Pakistani General Ahmad Mehmoud - the ISI director general at the time. General Mehmoud was removed by Musharraf less than a month after September 11. The Pakistani press reported at the time that Mehmoud was removed because US investigations had proved a liaison between himself and none other than Omar Sheikh. So BHL then arrives at an even juicier hypothesis: "Not only an Omar linked to al-Qaeda through its most spectacular terrorist operation - but of a collusion ... between al-Qaeda and ISI working together to destroy the Towers. For the Indian services, there's no doubt about the association."
Neo-conservatives may eventually be tortured by self-doubt, but Indian and Israeli intelligence will certainly love the fact that the information they shared led BHL to an explosive conclusion: "The possible Pakistani responsibility in the September 11 attack remains the great unsaid in George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld's America ... to admit that Ahmad is Omar and he wired the money ... wouldn't it be to question the whole foreign policy which, already at the time, made Iraq as the enemy and Pakistan as an ally?"
Not only because of Saud Memon - the murder scene was on his property - and Binori town - the "terrorist Vatican" - BHL slowly becomes convinced that Daniel Pearl's murder was ordered by al-Qaeda. It may be no more than fascinating literature, but BHL is persuasive. Omar, an unknown jihadi, is freed against the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines jet. He arrives in Kandahar as a hero - and is received by Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself, who presents him to none other than bin Laden. Bin Laden is vividly impressed by "this rare mix of faith and culture, of fanaticism and competence". So bin Laden starts thinking how he can profit from "an ardent jihadi who doubles as an unrivalled financier, an expert in electronics and the Internet, as well as a connoisseur of the West and its mechanisms".
One of BHL's sources - as well as, he admits, Indian intelligence - tells him that Omar successively enters the Majlis al-Shura, al-Qaeda's political council; conceives and operates al-Qaeda's web sites; and in the role of a hungry trader installs a computer terminal in a Kandahar house permanently linked to the world's major financial capitals: so the short selling that al-Qaeda profited from - and paid for - September 11 might have been the brainchild not of bin Laden, but Omar. BHL's conclusions: "Omar liberated by al-Qaeda and the ISI; Omar as an agent, very soon, of both al-Qaeda and the ISI; Omar as a precocious link between both organizations." No one has ever been able to verify it, but according to one of BHL's sources, bin Laden called Omar "my favored son". So here we have Omar - the flower of evil who masterminded the killing of Daniel Pearl - as the spiritual son of bin Laden.
What about Daniel Pearl himself? The truth about his death may be much less heroic and more pedestrian than BHL claims. If we analyze what happened from a journalistic point of view, Pearl may have been merely a victim of media wars - of information treated as merchandise. He was a reporter unfamiliar with such an extremely complex beat as Pakistan, under pressure from the Wall Street Journal main office to find scoops capable of beating the New York Times or the Washington Post. What led him to his fate was a story in a rival American paper about the obscure Sheikh Gilani, leader of the Al-Fuqrah sect and alleged mentor of shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Pearl may have thought that he got a break to build a story on banned Islamist groups. For Asia Times Online's own Pakistan-based Syed Saleem Shahzad, as well as for this correspondent, it is easy to see what happened next. He asked his fixer to try to get a meeting or an interview with Gilani. The fixer calls a journalist friend with close contacts with jihadi groups acting in Afghanistan and Kashmir. The journalist remembers a contact he saw a few times. He calls and sets up a meeting. Pearl and his fixer go to the meeting. Then they go to a house to see somebody who can lead them to Gilani. But the house is empty. They have to keep trying other leads. Then one day they call the same contact again and he says that he knows somebody who can take Pearl to Gilani. Pearl goes to yet another meeting and he finds the enigmatic Omar. It's in the course of this tortuous process that a Western journalist operating in an Islamic hothouse has to proceed with ultimate care. If anything feels remotely weird, the whole enterprise has to be called off. Pearl was doing anything to get his scoop. When Omar saw him he immediately knew that he had found the perfect, gullible sacrificial lamb.
Gilani may not have been worth so much trouble. He was indeed the leader of al-Fuqrah - almost a subsect, with nothing to do with the big jihadi organizations. Even Moinuddin Haider, Pakistan's Interior Minister, had never heard of al-Fuqrah before the Pearl affair - although some sources say that Gilani was Osama's most committed follower in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is a purely Arab organization. The International Islamic Front is an international organization - a de-territorialized federation of groups linked to emir bin Laden. Gilani was a member of neither. But according to some sources, he had spiritual ascendancy - maybe even ideological - over bin Laden: he is a pir, "venerated master" in urdu. Anyone familiar with Pakistan knows that a pir would never discuss such matters with an unknown, unchecked Western journalist.
BHL also advances the hypothesis that Daniel Pearl was investigating al-Qaeda's American network - based on the fact that Gilani was linked to the ISI, but maybe also to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): "Could the key to the mystery of his death be found in the hard disks of agencies in Washington?" What then: a nosy Pearl eliminated by an ISI-CIA tandem?
BHL writes that he was against Bush's war on Iraq - but at the same time he blamed the world's masses who claimed that "it's better to live as a slave under Saddam than to be free thanks to Bush". This basic misunderstanding from his part will endear him to neo-conservatives, Americans or otherwise, as much as it will discredit him to anybody around the world whose principles opposed an illegal war.
BHL is certain that "Pakistan is the roguest of all of today's rogue states". He is certain that "between Islamabad and Karachi, a real black void is being formed, compared to which the Baghdad of Saddam Hussein was just a depot of out-of-date weapons". BHL is dead sure that Pakistan is Apocalypse Now. This configures BHL as a Western darling of Indian intelligence. But one wonders how will this all be played out when the book is published in the US. Preemptive war against a nuclear Islamabad, anyone? Maybe Washington should wait to read an investigative novel by the flower of evil himself, the spiritual son of Osama bin Laden, the unfathomable Omar Sheikh.
Qui a tue Daniel Pearl? by Bernard-Henri Levy, Grasset et Fasquelle April, 2003. ISBN: 2246650518, Price: US$25, 538 pages.
Roman Les trois vies de Daniel Pearl
Bernard-Henri Lévy a suivi l'empreinte du journaliste américain juif, décapité par des fondamentalistes pakistanais.
Article paru dans l'édition du 22 mai 2003.
Qui a tué Daniel Pearl ?
de Bernard-Henri Lévy
540 pages, 20 euros.
Autant l'écrire d'emblée : Qui a tué Daniel Pearl ? est un livre passionnant qui nous transporte au cour d'une région du monde qui a commencé à écrire les chapitres essentiels de l'histoire du XXIe siècle. Bernard-Henri Lévy a cherché à reconstituer les circonstances et les raisons de la mort du journaliste Daniel Pearl, décapité le 31 janvier 2002 à Karachi par des fous de Dieu. Crime abject, au mobile évident : Pearl était journaliste, américain, et il ne cachait pas son judaïsme. Et pourtant, cette funeste trinité pour l'islamisme radical ne suffit pas à tout expliquer. Qui a tué Daniel Pearl ? Trois " guerriers " yéménites sous les ordres du cerveau, Omar Sheikh. Bernard-Henri Lévy a cherché la vérité au cours d'une enquête d'un an qui l'a mené à Karachi, Kandahar, Londres, New Delhi, Washington, la Californie... Il a écrit ce qu'il nomme un " romanquête ", que l'on peut traduire par roman enquête ou roman quête. Passons sur la définition. Il y a, c'est vrai, du roman dans les interstices, comme un liant entre les faits, les rencontres, les événements. La manière dont l'auteur s'introduit dans la peau des personnages, des deux principaux notamment : la victime et le bourreau ; la manière dont il décrit l'environnement des acteurs de la tragédie (la visite à la madrasa de Binori Town, la grande mosquée des taliban, les rues de Karachi, le quartier des drogués...) ; la manière dont il transforme des personnages secondaires en acteurs principaux au fil de l'itinéraire. Mais si Bernard-Henri Lévy laisse l'imaginaire prendre la place du fait constaté, c'est autant un travail d'écrivain que celui, d'interprétation, que ne se refuse pas le journaliste. L'auteur revendique cependant une ouvre d'écrivain : " Ne rien céder à l'imaginaire tant que le réel est là et que l'enquête, au moins en droit, serait en mesure de le retrouver ; tout lui accorder, en revanche, là où le réel se dérobe et que, par force, on ne sait rien. "
Du " romanquête ", l'enquête se détache nettement. Le " contrat sur la tête de Daniel Pearl, pour le ressusciter ", oblige l'auteur à partager ses moments d'intimité, la rencontre obligée et émouvante avec les parents de Pearl, avec Mariane, sa femme, enceinte au moment du crime. Le contrat oblige à cerner la personnalité de l'instigateur du crime, cet Omar Skeikh, Pakistanais de Londres, milieu aisé, études brillantes à la London School, qui a viré sa cuti lors du conflit bosniaque. Le parcours n'est pas facile. Faut-il, comme avertit Mariane, se garder de lui faire cet inestimable cadeau de mise en vedette, de la gloire du barbare dont il rêve ? Pourquoi s'intéresser à l'âme d'Omar ? Trop entrer dans leur folie, ou pire, dans leur logique ? Bernard-Henri Lévy fait d'Omar tout de même " le second personnage " du livre. J'avoue, écrit-il, " qu'aucun ne m'impressionne comme cet homme étrange, apparemment policé et doux, raffiné et subtil (...). " Et l'auteur va partir dans " la tête du Diable ", afin de mieux dérouler le fil des événements.
Pearl était, c'est sûr, en train de reconstituer les réseaux qui l'auraient mené, s'il avait vécu, jusqu'au secret du noyau islamiste radical pakistanais : la bombe nucléaire d'al Qaeda. Sur les traces de Pearl, Bernard-Henri Lévy découvre qu'Omar Sheikh est l'une des chevilles ouvrières de l'organisation terroriste, à la fois financier et informaticien, et qu'il est protégé par l'ISI, les redoutables services secrets du Pakistan. La conclusion coule de source : le Pakistan, pseudo allié des Etats-Unis, joue un double jeu, dont nous sommes encore loin d'avoir subi toutes les conséquences. " En entrant dans cet univers glauque de savants fous et de fous d'Allah, en mettant le pied dans cette nuit où services secrets et secrets nucléaires échangent et partagent leurs zones d'ombre, en travaillant sur cette matière hautement sensible et explosive, était-il en train d'enfreindre l'autre grand interdit qui pèse sur cette région du monde ? Je le fais, moi, en tout cas (...) J'affirme que le Pakistan est le plus voyou des États voyous d'aujourd'hui. J'affirme qu'est en train de se former là, entre Islamabad et Karachi, un véritable trou noir en comparaison duquel le Bagdad de Saddam Hussein était un dépotoir d'armes périmées. Il flotte dans ces villes une odeur d'apocalypse ; et c'est, j'en suis convaincu, ce que Danny avait senti. "
Bernard-Henri Lévy acquiert donc la conviction que la mort de Pearl fut " une mort de journaliste ", non sans avoir été ému par la fierté de l'Américain de ne rien cacher du fait qu'il était juif. Bernard-Henri Lévy n'enjolive rien, pas même les responsabilités occidentales dans la naissance du terrorisme islamiste. Il n'élude pas non plus l'école bosniaque du fondamentalisme. Et il réitère l'avertissement contre les méfaits de l'antisémitisme moderne. Car, dit-il, " Pearl est aussi mort de cela ".
Daniel Pearl, l'enquête
ARTICLE PARU DANS L'EDITION DU 25 Avril 2003
Bernard-Henri Lévy a traqué les assassins du journaliste américain, décapité au Pakistan le 31 janvier 2002. Un travail d'une année où se mêlent réel et imaginaire, investigation et spéculation. Convaincant et dérangeant
Un aveu, d'abord. Cette enquête sur l'assassinat de Daniel Pearl, au Pakistan, on aurait bien voulu la mener. Pas seulement par solidarité professionnelle : Pearl, l'un des correspondants du Wall Street Journal en Asie, était un confrère américain respecté, compétent, courageux et sympathique. Pas seulement parce que le supplice de cet homme, enlevé puis égorgé dans un quartier périphérique de Karachi, a soulevé colère et écoeurement : Pearl s'était marié un peu plus tôt et son épouse, Mariane, venait de lui annoncer qu'elle attendait un enfant. Il y avait autre chose, qu'a bien senti Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Il y avait eu cette bande-vidéo tournée par ses ravisseurs et dans laquelle Pearl disait : « Mon père est juif ; ma mère est juive ; je suis juif. » On était en fin de campagne d'Afghanistan. Les Etats-Unis avaient chassé de Kaboul le régime des talibans - régime mis au pouvoir et entretenu par le Pakistan ; régime qui était l'une des bases logistiques d'Al-Qaïda, l'organisation responsable des attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Le président pakistanais, Pervez Mucharraf, pour sauvegarder les traditionnelles relations d'amitié entre Islamabad et Washington, s'essayait à un brutal changement de cap. De parrain des talibans et de nombre d'autres organisations islamistes radicales, le Pakistan - « pays drogué au fanatisme », dit l'auteur - devenait membre de la coalition antiterrorisme assemblée par l'administration Bush... Pervez Mucharraf faisait interdire quelques groupes terroristes ayant pignon sur rue chez lui et arrêter quelques centaines de leurs membres. On découvrait à quel point le Pakistan, puissance nucléaire, était gangrené par l'islamisme militant ; à quel point il nourrissait, formait, finançait des groupes extrémistes. Cela, quasi officiellement, afin d'entretenir une guerilla terroriste dans la partie indienne du Cachemire.
On était quelques mois après ce pitoyable sommet de Durban où, sous couvert de lutte contre le racisme, nombre d'ONG et d'officiels du tiers-monde s'étaient livrés à une débauche d'antisémitisme. On était dans les prémices de la guerre que l'Amérique allait livrer contre l'Irak de Saddam Hussein. Bref, on sentait, confusément, que l'assassinat de Pearl collait, terriblement, à l'époque. Il ne relevait pas du fait divers ou d'une enquête journalistique qui aurait mal tourné. On soupçonnait, derrière, un drame plus ample, une tragédie moderne, chargée de sens, quelque chose qui aurait peut-être à voir avec ce choc des civilisations promis par Huntington.
Au départ de son « roman-enquête » ou « romanquête », Bernard-Henri Lévy prend les faits tels qu'il les trouve. Version officielle. Daniel Pearl cherche à rencontrer l'animateur d'un groupe extrémiste pakistanais, un certain Gilani. Celui-ci l'intéresserait parce qu'il aurait pu être l'inspirateur de l'homme à la chaussure piégée, ce Richard Reid arrêté sur un Paris-Miami. Pearl zone dans le labyrinthe des milieux islamistes de Karachi, une spécialité de la ville. Il tombe sur un « contact », Omar Sheikh, militant intégriste qui dit pouvoir lui arranger une rencontre avec Gilani. Rendez-vous est pris le 23 janvier 2002, en fin d'après-midi, devant un restaurant, le Village Garden.
Pearl n'en reviendra jamais. Il y est enlevé. Détenu sept jours dans une ferme du quartier de Gulzare-Hijri, il est assassiné le 31. Son corps sera retrouvé le 17 mai, coupé en dix morceaux.
Les autorités ont arrêté dix-sept personnes. Un premier groupe a été jugé en juillet. Tête pensante de l'enlèvement, Omar Sheikh est condamné à être pendu. Il a fait appel. Il a totalement assumé l'enlèvement : « Je l'ai planifié car j'étais sûr de pouvoir traiter avec le gouvernement américain pour obtenir la libération d'une ou deux personnes, comme l'ancien ambassadeur des talibans au Pakistan. »
Bernard-Henri Lévy a zoné à son tour dans Karachi. Il est allé voir les parents de Pearl à Los Angeles. Il s'est rendu à Londres pour s'entretenir avec ceux d'Omar Sheikh. Il tient une histoire, ou une version de l'histoire, l'affrontement entre deux hommes, deux destins en un portrait croisé. D'un côté, il y a « Danny ». Parents à la double nationalité, israélienne et américaine. Enfance heureuse de gamin doué. Etudes supérieures à Stanford, puis le journalisme : carrière brillante de reporter tout-terrain, celle d'un homme des Lumières, tolérant. Le journaliste Pearl ne jugeait pas ; il était là pour comprendre. De l'autre, Omar, une vie parallèle, qui aurait presque pu être identique. Né en Grande-Bretagne dans une famille pakistanaise installée dans une banlieue de Londres. Double nationalité là aussi, pakistanaise et britannique. Milieu aisé là encore - père entrepreneur, une soeur à Oxford, un frère à Cambridge. Il entre à 18 ans à la prestigieuse London School of Economics (LSE). Il se destine à la finance, mais n'ira jamais à la City. A l'occasion d'un voyage dans la Bosnie en guerre, organisé par une association d'étudiants musulmans, il bascule dans le militantisme radical - du moins dixit sa biographie officielle. Condamné pour détournement d'avion en Inde, il y passe plusieurs années en prison, avant d'être échangé à la faveur d'un autre détournement.
Bernard-Henri Lévy aurait pu en rester là, au croisement de ces deux destinées sous forme d'enlèvement - qui tourne au meurtre parce que les ravisseurs ont paniqué ou bien parce qu'ils ont voulu tuer un homme qui, dans leur univers fou, est au moins trois fois coupable : journaliste, donc un peu espion ; juif donc Israélien donc forcément oppresseur ; Américain, donc porteur de tous les péchés du monde.
Seulement, l'auteur a l'intuition que quelque chose ne va pas dans cette version. Il retourne au Pakistan, deux fois. Il va enquêter en Inde. Il se rend aux Etats-Unis. Sa traque va durer un an, menée, explique-t-il, selon la méthode du « roman-enquête » : « Ne rien céder à l'imaginaire tant que le réel est là (...) ; tout lui accorder, en revanche, là où le réel se dérobe. » Il accumule les faits, emprunte toutes les pistes, réexamine les lieux, interroge les témoins. Quand il sèche, il imagine. On peut contester la méthode, s'interroger : quand passe-t-on de l'investigation à la spéculation ? Le résultat est là : le « romancier-enquêteur » est sacrément convaincant.
Il l'est quand il estime - éléments probants à l'appui - qu'Omar est en fait un agent des services secrets pakistanais, la toute-puissante ISI. Il l'est quand il formule l'hypothèse que l'enlèvement est l'oeuvre d'un des camps qui se disputent le pouvoir au sein de l'ISI et que l'affaire Pearl serait ainsi une sorte de « crime d'Etat ». Il l'est quand il formule une autre hypothèse : Pearl a été tué parce qu'il en savait trop, ou s'apprêtait à en savoir trop. Sur quoi ? Sur les liens entre l'ISI et Al-Qaïda, liens qu'incarnent précisément des hommes comme Sheikh et Gilani. Sur les affiliations islamistes de savants atomistes pakistanais en contact avec Ben Laden. Il en savait trop sur un régime - qualifié de « plus voyou des Etats voyous » - qui joue avec deux des ingrédients les plus dangereux de l'époque : islamisme et bombe atomique. Entre Islamabad et Karachi, écrit Bernard-Henri Lévy, « flotte une odeur d'apocalypse, et c'est, j'en suis convaincu, ce que Danny avait senti ». Il en serait mort.
A personal take on the Pearl killing
Wednesday, September 3, 2003
PARIS.Bernard-Henri Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed. He is an intellectual
adventurer who brings publicity to unfashionable political causes. He is also a
handsome man married to a glamorous actress; he and his wife, Arielle Dombasle,
are regularly mentioned in French gossip magazines. Now 55, Lévy is well used to
celebrity. For 25 years he has been known here simply by his initials, B.H.L.
Not that everyone takes him seriously. His carefully cultivated public persona, which includes black suits, unbuttoned white shirts and long, dark hair, is frequently mocked on a televised puppet show, and he is often hit with pies by a Belgian who claims to target the self-important. The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné once asked of him, "Rimbaud or Rambo?" Yet France has always had a place for high-profile intellectuals, from Victor Hugo and Emile Zola to Jean-Paul Sartre and André Malraux. And from an early age, Lévy set off in their footsteps. He earned his spurs in the late 1970's as one of several "new philosophers" who enraged the left by attacking the Soviet Union. He then turned his guns on the right, warning that 1930's-style fascism was still rooted in French politics.
What most annoys his critics, however, is that Lévy is often the star of his own stories. And the complaint has been heard anew about his latest book, in which he sets out to solve the murder of Daniel Pearl, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, who was killed after his kidnapping in Pakistan on Jan. 23, 2002. Yet, conversely, if the book has sold more than 200,000 copies in Paris since April, it is also because Lévy's name and passion continue to draw French readers.
Now, with the publication next week of the English translation of "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" (Melville House Publishing), Lévy is entering unknown territory. The question also arises as to why a French intellectual should investigate the murder in a far-off land of a man who was an American, a journalist and a Jew.
"If I had to pick, I'd say it was because he was Jewish," said Lévy, who is himself a nonpracticing Jew. "Amid my shock at his death was the realization that we were entering a century in which a man could have his throat cut for saying, 'My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am a Jew.' As I read his work, I also understood he was not just a Jew. He was a Jew who believed in reaching out to moderate Islam. And I recognized myself in his way of being Jewish."
But there was another reason, Lévy explained. "I am hardly a fan of today's American government - I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning - but I am nonetheless strongly anti-anti-American," he said. "I am alarmed by the way anti-Americanism is becoming globalized. Through Danny Pearl's experience, I had the feeling that the idea of America as a magnet for the worst was becoming a global phenomenon."
Lévy nonetheless tells the story as a narrative of his own investigation, something that irritated some French critics. "B.H.L. is an intellectual whose most accomplished work is the construction of his own biography," Pierre Assouline, editor of the literary monthly Lire, noted acidly. Others were more generous. In Le Monde, Alain Frachon said he found the book convincing. And, writing in Le Figaro, Jean de Belot praised it as "a splendid journey to better understand the fragility of the world."
Lévy was on a diplomatic mission to Afghanistan for President Jacques Chirac when he heard of Pearl's death. After completing his work in Kabul, he flew immediately to Karachi, returning to Pakistan for the first time since 1971. And in his airport taxi, he already sensed how the country had changed. "What is your religion?" the taxi driver asked him. He was taken aback. "Atheist," he finally replied. "My religion is atheism."
He said he first imagined writing a long report for Le Monde, but was soon drawn into a more ambitious project, one that he felt equipped to carry out. "I don't think any American newspaper would have taken the risk of sending a journalist - especially a Jew - in the steps of Daniel Pearl," he said. "I had the luck of being French, with the French position on the Iraq war well known. I still had a diplomatic passport. I played with ambiguities."
He has assumed a different risk by writing what he calls a "romanquête," part roman, or novel, part enquête, or investigation. He mentions Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" and Norman Mailer's "Oswald's Tale" as precedents, but he has raised eyebrows by imagining the thoughts of Pearl as he was about to have his throat cut, and those of Ahmed Omar Sheik, the British-born son of Pakistani immigrants who is the convicted mastermind of the murder.
Most of the book, though, is reported on the ground. Lévy made five trips to Pakistan, two each to India, the United States and Britain, and one each to Bosnia and Dubai. And his conclusion is anything but fictional: that Pakistan's military secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, widely known as ISI, is deeply involved with the Islamic fundamentalist groups responsible for Pearl's death and with Al Qaeda.
So why a romanquête? "I am also a novelist, and I suppose that the book has a tone more of a writer than of a traditional researcher," said Lévy, whose earlier book, "Sartre: The Philosopher of the 20th Century" (Polity Press), has also just been published in English. "But the real reason is that, by introducing elements of speculation, it was possible to move forward when the investigation seemed stuck. There are moments when I have the intuition of a novelist, moments that serve as sparks to illuminate and advance."
The bulk of Lévy's investigation involved reading police and intelligence files and interviews. To help draw his admiring portrait of Pearl, for instance, he met the reporter's parents and widow, Mariane, who cooperated with him.
In London Lévy interviewed Sheikh's brother, former friends and fellow students from his years at the London School of Economics. He also tracked Sheikh's steady radicalization: his identification with the plight of Bosnian Muslims, his move to Pakistan, his jailing in India on kidnapping charges, his release in exchange for a hijacked Indian plane and his ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In Pakistan to verify details obtained from police records, Lévy visited the abandoned Karachi house where Pearl was killed. He met Pakistani officials who openly attacked the United States and, specifically, Jews. And with considerable trepidation, he paid an unannounced visit to the Sunni madrasa, or Islamic seminary, where Sheikh is said to have slept some nights before the kidnapping.
More critically, as he advanced in his research, Lévy came to view the official Pakistani version that Sheikh acted alone as a cover-up for a far darker reality, one that placed Sheikh at the heart of a complex network of Islamic fundamentalist groups, many linked to the ISI and Al Qaeda.
Less clear, Lévy admits, is why Pearl was killed. He nonetheless speculates that Pearl was pursuing evidence that Al Qaeda and North Korea were receiving nuclear secrets from Pakistani scientists with ties to the ISI and fundamentalist groups. "In other words," Lévy writes, "I bet on a Daniel Pearl busy gathering proof of Pakistan's collusion between the leading rogue states and terrorist networks of the world."
Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, said the newspaper had no evidence that Pearl was investigating any such conspiracy. "The Wall Street Journal was not involved in any way in the preparation of this book," he said in a statement responding to the book. "However, we urge all the authorities involved in the investigation to review the book to see whether it provides any useful information which could help in the effort to bring Danny's killers to justice."
While Lévy does not hesitate to proclaim Pakistan itself a rogue state, he chooses to end his book on a conciliatory note, evoking moderate Muslims he has known in Bosnia, Algeria, Morocco and Afghanistan. "There is this gentle Islam towards which, in spite of everything, until the last minute, Daniel Pearl wanted to believe, as I want to believe," he writes. And he adds, "It was the true subject of this book - homage to my posthumous friend and a call for the sharing of light."
Who killed Daniel Pearl?
Friday, August 29, 2003
The most popular book in France at the moment is "Who Killed Daniel Pearl" by the journalist and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy. It advances the theory that the Wall Street Journal reporter was not killed because he was a Jew and a suspected American or Israeli spy, but because "he was the man who knew too much."
Mr. Pearl, Mr. Levy concludes, was close to uncovering the link between al-Qaida and the Pakistani secret service, the Interservices Intelligence Agency. According to Mr. Levy, the ISI, which also controls Pakistan's atomic bomb, is run by Islamic extremists who fully intend to use that bomb one day in the service of the jihad. He asserts that Omar Saeed Sheikh, who masterminded the kidnapping and murder of Mr. Pearl, a former Eagle reporter, was not only an outlaw zealot of al-Qaida but an agent of the ISI acting to protect its secrets. Mr. Levy also believes the agency provided Pakistani nuclear secrets to Iran and North Korea, and has uncovered a $100,000 wire transfer to the account of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta that seems to implicate it in the planning of the attacks on America.
It should be noted that Mr. Levy is not a crank but a respected figure in France, a journalist of 30 years experience in South Asia, and President Jacques Chirac's envoy to Afghanistan. While he admits he cannot prove his theory, it is known that the ISI ran the Taliban and has had links with extremist Islamic groups both in Afghanistan and in Kashmir, where it uses them in a proxy war with India. These anti-Western fanatics also receive money and support from our alleged friend, Saudi Arabia. If Mr. Levy's tale even points at the truth, the implications are staggering. How foolish we are to be mucking about in the Iraqi desert, wasting money and soldiers' lives, when the real enemy may be a fanatical, nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden is said to be still hiding in the lawless tribal areas of western Pakistan, near the Afghan border. Our Pakistani allies say, unconvincingly, that they cannot help us find him there. The government we installed in Afghanistan barely controls its own capital, and the Taliban operate openly in the countryside. But the Bush administration doesn't seem to care. Its focus on the wrong war, its refusal to insist that "allies" behave as such, its shortchanging of domestic security are all puzzling, given the damage another terrorist attack would do to its re-election prospects. Just this week, Canadian authorities arrested 18 Pakistanis they suspect of comprising a sleeper cell planning a spectacular terrorist attack on a Toronto-area nuclear plant. This is as serious as a heart attack.
The killing of Daniel Pearl sent a message as unambiguous as the airplanes hitting the building: We hate you and we will kill you all. The post-9/11 focus on Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaida was the correct one. Let's keep our eye on the ball: Where's Osama? Who killed Daniel Pearl?
The Last Word: Bernard-Henri Levy
‘Who Killed Daniel Pearl?’
Sept. 22 issue — To many outside France, Bernard-Henri Levy is the elegant caricature of a libertine Left Bank intellectual. But he also harbors a deep-rooted concern about the dangers of extremism—in all its shapes and forms—which has led him to a project stirring controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.
LEVY LEARNED ABOUT the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter
Daniel Pearl while visiting Afghanistan as French President Jacques Chirac’s
special envoy in January 2002. He spent the next year in Pakistan, India, Europe
and the United States trying to uncover why Pearl’s captors held and executed
him. The resulting book, “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?,” released in the United
States this month, argues that Al Qaeda and radicals in the Pakistani military
and intelligence services have been working together to gain access to
Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Pearl’s sin, Levy concludes, was that he got too
close to those plans. NEWSWEEK’s Marie Valla and Eric Pape interviewed Levy last
NEWSWEEK: You just returned from the United States. Tell us about the differences in the way the book was received there and in France.
LEVY: In the States, the book’s reception was a lot more intense and emotional. American journalists carry the death of Pearl in themselves like an open wound. In France, Pearl is someone whose name people hardly remembered. In the United States, it’s as if I was coming to tell people about [the story of] one of their relatives, a brother, a son or a best friend. I gave an interview to the first newspaper Pearl ever worked for. The journalist and I were both moved to tears. Fifteen months after Pearl’s body was repatriated, I felt like I was bringing back a tiny fragment of his memory.
Why did you write such a personal book about a man you never met?
I was shaken by Daniel Pearl’s death. Then, as I was investigating it, I grew more and more attached to what he stood for. I have written about 30 books now, but I never felt shaken up the way I did after I wrote this book. It shattered me, for reasons that I myself don’t completely understand. I would never have been able to behave the way he did in captivity or to face death like he did. There is something both grand and beautiful in the way he rejected a war of civilizations, in his desire to communicate with adversaries and in his longing to understand the hatred of others.
When did you realize it would be necessary to introduce a form that would allow for fictional elements in the telling of the story?
I knew I would write the book in that particular form when I went back to the scene of the crime, the place where he was beheaded. It was when I found myself stuck between these four walls, alone in that room, with the bloodstain on the wall, the piece of rope—all the little remnants of a life that had vanished. At that very moment I realized that there were two things that I had to do: reconstruct the story of Pearl’s death and take his investigation a few steps further, not to finish it but to pick up its threads.
So who killed Daniel Pearl—and why?
A crime syndicate made up of several Pakistani groups who are leading jihads, and who are backed by the ISI—Pakistan’s secret services—and supported by organizations linked to Al Qaeda. They wanted, first of all, to set an example, to send a message to Westerners about how they would now be treated; secondly, to embarrass [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf, and thirdly, to stop Pearl, who was a good journalist, from exposing certain truths that elements in Pakistan wanted kept secret.
When you finished the book, the
United States was
about to launch a war against Iraq. How did that relate to the terrorism that
you were writing about?
That’s exactly the problem—I don’t see how they relate. This is why I believe that the war against Iraq was a mistake, because the path of antiterrorism doesn’t go through Baghdad. And I haven’t changed my mind about this since I said in February that the war is “morally right but politically wrong.” It’s always right to bring down dictators, but politically and as far as fighting terrorism was concerned, it wasn’t a good move.
You have written previously of the dangers of guiding politics with moral purity.
The [desire] for purity is the matrix of all terrorism. It was true of fascism—purity of the race. It was true of communism—purity of the good society. And it is true of a third type of fascism—[Islamic] fascism, which longs for an impeccable world devoid of sin and corruption. It’s the basic concept that runs through the [20th] century and embraces all the different strains of modern totalitarianism. At the root of all genocidal madness in the last century, there is this fantasy of a pure community or a pure race.
You call yourself an “anti-anti-American.” Can you explain?
Any argument that jointly dismisses Bush and bin Laden is garbage—however strongly you may disagree with Bush. I am against people who criticize America for what it is, rather than for what it does.
ROBERT D. KAPLAN
WHO KILLED DANIEL PEARL?
By Bernard-Henri Levy.
Translated by James X. Mitchell.
454 pp. Hoboken, N.J.: Melville House Publishing. $25.95.
A MIGHTY HEART
The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl.
By Mariane Pearl with Sarah Crichton.
278 pp. New York: Scribner. $25.
WILL the murder of the Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl turn out to be the seminal crime of the 21st century? Those who can so gruesomely destroy an innocent individual may well be capable of destroying millions. For Pearl, as Bernard-Henri Lévy tells us in ''Who Killed Daniel Pearl?,'' was crushed by a granitelike ideological apparatus.
Lévy, in a gripping synthesis of philosophy and reportage, follows the trail of the kidnappers to the highest reaches of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, and to the links he claims exist between them. ''On one side a lone man, fragile, representing only himself,'' Lévy writes of Pearl; on the other a ''jihadist syndicate'' vast and formless, comprising both official allies and enemies of the United States. While Saddam Hussein, in Lévy's perceptive words, was a ''tyrant in his autumn, a phantom of 20th-century history . . . in Karachi, tomorrow's barbarous configurations were being concocted.''
Pearl was doubly vulnerable. He was both a Jew and a journalist working alone, away from the media pack, in the chaotic, poor and largely illiterate Muslim city of Karachi, where anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are a prosaic element of daily conversation. His videotaped decapitation at the hands of Islamic terrorists constituted the ritual slaughter of an American Jew who proclaimed his Jewishness at the moment of his death, like a character out of an Isaac Babel story about to be slain by Cossacks. Before the knife fell, Pearl said: ''In Bnai Brak, in Israel, there is a street called Haim Pearl Street, named after my great-grandfather.'' It was that deliberate recovery of such a specific and proud past that kept his tormentors from reducing him to a mere symbol.
Pearl's death also stirred up the ultimate horror of another group: foreign correspondents, who must operate on their own in places where the concept of an independent journalist is so alien that it automatically defines you as a spy or agent. While Lévy's book is the product of a French intellectual -- the author of a study of Jean-Paul Sartre, among other works -- and Mariane Pearl's ''Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl,'' written with Sarah Crichton, is that of a grieving widow, both writers have worked as foreign correspondents, with significant experience in South Asia. It is their professional knowledge that imbues their books with an uncanny profundity about what Pearl experienced the last weeks of his life.
Many a foreign correspondent knows the steady, low-level paranoia -- mixed with boredom and self-doubt -- that one deliberately maintains while squeezed between strangers in the back seat of a vehicle and in slummy apartments in unfamiliar neighborhoods, among militants who are at best uneasy with you, and more likely despise you. Having been in war zones, embedded with United States Army Special Forces and alone with a local fixer inside a Karachi madrasa linked loosely to Al Qaeda, I can say that it is the last of these experiences that is the most unsettling. It is the times you are being served sweet tea and almonds, and everybody acts so polite, when you tend to be the most nervous. Was I smart to trust this fixer? Should I have hired the other guy? What about the driver outside waiting for me?
When things go right, you think yourself a coward for worrying so much. And things do go right until the split second when they go wrong. Then it is too late to affect the outcome: your cowardliness becomes recklessness. Decisions like ''should I get into this car with these people?'' are made on instinct: the unarticulated sum of past encounters. While your instinct improves with such experience, the very knowledge that this is true makes you more inclined to take risks. Whereas being embedded with the military means the loss of freedom in return for extraordinary access and good company, the experience of journalists like Pearl involves radical freedom, which is the epitome of absolute loneliness.
Mariane Pearl describes her late husband as ''a believer in playing it safe.'' She quotes from a prescient memo he wrote to his bosses at The Wall Street Journal about the danger of journalists like himself being kidnapped. He consulted with two security experts about whether he should meet with the Muslim radicals who would later kidnap him at a Karachi restaurant; the experts' advice was inconclusive. Assessing risk in these situations is an art, not a science.
Pearl was lured from the restaurant into a waiting car because of the promise of an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, an elusive spiritual leader with reputed ties to the pathetic shoe bomber, Richard C. Reid. To arrange that interview, Pearl's fixer had contacted a friend, who in turn contacted a spokesman for the Kashmiri separatist movement, who arranged a meeting between Pearl and a certain ''Bashir'' at a hotel in Rawalpindi. Bashir then put Pearl in touch with one of Sheikh Gilani's disciples. All the while, Bashir's friendly e-mail messages to Pearl suggested the kind of innocuous and protracted runaround encountered frequently by reporters in a part of the world where formal channels are weak and informal networks fill the gap.
Bashir, it turned out, was the British-raised Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had spent six years in an Indian jail for the kidnapping of four foreign tourists who were to be exchanged for an imprisoned Kashmiri separatist. In December 1999, an Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and in return for the passengers' freedom the Indian government released Omar Sheikh.
''I keep wanting to know how the kidnappers got Danny into the car. He is such a cautious man,'' Mariane Pearl says to a Pakistani counterterrorism expert. ''Did they pull a gun on him? Hit him?'' The man answers patiently: ''Omar Sheikh is an expert. It is Danny who is being kidnapped for the first time. It is Omar Sheikh who has done it 10 times. There is a difference. Omar Sheikh has had a chance to learn from his mistakes. . . . After this, do you think Danny will ever be kidnapped again?''
Though Danny Pearl, as both authors point out, did not consider himself a war correspondent, in a way he was one: in a new kind of war characterized by an unparalleled dispersion of forces. As the modern battlefield expands and empties out, scattered bands of insurgents with increasing access to lethal weaponry hide in broad daylight in civilian areas. Lévy senses that Pearl reached his apotheosis as a reporter while in captivity, when he probably never stopped engaging his jailers, absorbing vital insights about their lives and intentions that could not be had at a safer distance. The 19th-century Prussian philosopher of war Karl von Clausewitz, a product of the Romantic Age, knew that cultural and historical knowledge of the enemy was more important than the elixirs of science and technology. In the cities of South Asia, suffused with the ''stench of the apocalypse,'' as Lévy puts it, Pearl was drinking up the sort of insights Clausewitz valued most.
Lévy's novelistic description of Pearl's death (the translation is by James X. Mitchell) leaves one roiled with emotions. If it was obscene to show the video of the execution, why does one need to read such a meticulously imagined account of it, however savvy it is in the atmospherics: the bleak neighborhood, empty soda cans, curved daggers of the executioners and the fumbling with the camcorder? Lévy's exploration of Pearl's loneliness and indomitable spirit in the moments before he is killed lends gravity to the passage, though.
The same cannot be said about ratings-hungry CBS, whose broadcast of part of the video had no redeeming feature. Mariane Pearl tells Andrew Hayward, the president of CBS News, that her husband's murderers ''appealed to your weakness, and you gave in.''
The news media have altered the strategic landscape. It is questionable whether there would be an incentive for such an execution had there been little likelihood of the video being broadcast -- just as the promise of incessant coverage inspires the perpetuation of violence in both Iraq and Israel. But the news media also included Pearl, who sought knowledge for the sake of analysis rather than mere sensation. As the battlefield of war evolves, journalists like him will be needed more. And the risks will grow rather than diminish.
Robert D. Kaplan is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and the author of many books, including ''Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.''
'I wrote it for
Bernard-Henri Levy is France's most celebrated intellectual, famed as much for his flamboyant lifestyle as his philosophical works. Now, in his latest book, he unravels the mystery surrounding the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl. He tells Amelia Gentleman why he had to do it
Wednesday October 8, 2003
Monday morning at the Cafe de Flore and waiters in long-white aprons are dancing attendance on the tourists. Hard-boiled eggs and baguettes are waiting on the counter; champagne is cooling in large silver bowls. This is a four-star guide-book destination. Once the canteen to Picasso, Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir, it is not a neutral venue for a rendezvous with the man who allows himself to be described on his bookjackets as France's leading philosopher.
Bernard-Henri Levy appears to spend a lot of time here. When he arrives, the maitre d' hands him some post and the waiters acknowledge him with deference. Levy casually lets slip that he drank here with Sartre in his youth.
BHL, as he is semi-affectionately known in the French media, comes with just as much baggage as the Cafe de Flore. Over the decades, a powerful cult of personality has developed around him and he has become as notorious for his flamboyant lifestyle as for his writing. He has worn the same signature outfit of black suit and white shirt, unbuttoned to somewhere halfway between the navel and the throat, for the past 30 years. Details of his passionate relationship with his wife, Arielle Dombasle (one of the world's most beautiful women, according to Paris Match) are more familiar to most than his academic work; the two have hardly parted since their marriage, dividing their time between palatial residences in Morocco, the South of France and Boulevard St Germain.
In France, Levy is lionised and lampooned in equal measure. Admirers compare him breathlessly to Charles Baudelaire, Emile Zola and Victor Hugo. His detractors, railing against the phoniness of the playboy philosopher, have frequently arranged to have custard pies hurled at his immaculate hair. A prolific writer who has tackled subjects as diverse as Salman Rushdie and Piero della Francesca, he has also dabbled, with varying success, in film, documentaries, fiction, theatre and, bizarrely, diplomacy. When the US-led coalition began sending troops to Afghanistan, France announced it would be sending BHL as a peace envoy instead. The subjects he broaches are eminently serious - forgotten wars in Sudan, Cambodia and Somalia as well as tracts on Sartre - and yet he is more likely to be featured on the party pages of French magazines than quoted in the latest philosophical journals.
He is irritated by this popular obsession with his image, which he feels deflects attention from his writing and could not be more irrelevent to the subject of his latest book - an investigation into the murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl. "I am not a writer who cultivates his image," he says with prickly distaste, as yet another button on his shirt slips open. "I've never spent time on it. I do what think I should do, I write what I want to do, and life goes on."
But it is obvious that his celebrity is partly responsible for the book's extraordinary success in France, which has no particular connection to the death in February 2002 of the American journalist who was targeted by a British assassin in a remote part of Pakistan.
An extraordinary narrative has emerged from the laptop of this darling of the French media. In the abstract, it is no surprise that Pearl's death should be recycled as page-turning literature. The circumstances of his assassination remain as compelling as they are mysterious. His kidnap during an investigative assignment for his newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, the shackled video plea for help, the antisemitism of the killers, the desperate appeals for mercy made by his pregnant wife, the final shocking images of his execution - all make gripping reading.
More peculiar is the style that Levy, 55, has adopted to retell the story - part fiction, part journalism, part police-work, part thriller. He describes it as a unique literary genre, which he has awarded a new classification - romanquete - half novel, half investigation; he concedes it has its roots in works such as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.
The genre allows him the freedom to present precise accuracy when it is available and to make up the areas where it isn't. The death scene is made up. In Qui a Tué Daniel Pearl?, the subject spends his last moments, before his throat is cut, thinking about his life, his first ice-cream, his wife, Marianne, the delicious qualities of a loaf of French bread, his mother's laughter. "His eyes closed, Pearl feels the motion of the knife as it approaches his throat," Levy writes. "He is sweating and shivering at the same time. He hears a dog barking, far away. A fly buzzing close to him. And then, the squawk of a chicken that gets mixed up with his own cry, astonishment mixed with pain, inhuman."
Levy abandoned his cafe lifestyle to spend a year interviewing everyone involved in the murder, travelling through the most dangerous regions of Pakistan in his subject's footsteps, making several trips to India and America, stopping off in England, Spain, Bosnia and Dubai.
The book is written as a chronological account of his investigations. He searches for clues, he visits the house where Pearl spent several weeks in captivity, he speaks to Pearl's family, wife and childhood friends, solicits information from colleagues, interviews the Pakistani and US investigators, encounters the sinister forces of the Pakistani Intelligence Services, the ISI, talks to diplomats in India and conspiracy theorists around the world. He tracks down the brother of Omar Sheikh, the man convicted of abducting and killing Pearl, in a clothing warehouse in the East End of London, and talks to former classmates at the London School of Economics.
Levy doesn't need to write for money (he inherited a family fortune) or for fame; his writing is driven by personal passions and obsessions. At every step of the investigation, Levy is present - talking about his own Jewishness, his own fears, his developing theories. It is an extreme form of "I-journalism" which has irritated some of his reviewers, but his insights are sharp and the affinity he feels with Pearl is often moving.
Levy sees the book as more than just the history of one man's tragic death. He uses the murder to remind readers that the current obsession with the threat of Iraq is misguided, and argues that the growth of anti-Americanism and antisemitism in Pakistan and across the Islamic world presents a much greater threat to global security.
"I know that the success or failure of a book is never an accident. Perhaps people understood that Pakistan was more important than Iraq and that in many ways the death of Daniel Pearl was a more important issue to highlight than the search for Saddam Hussein," he says.
In the current climate of French anti-Americanism, Levy describes himself as a champion of the anti-anti-American cause. "The book says that hatred of America is becoming an issue of global importance. Second, it says that antisemitism is experiencing, alongside this anti-Americanism, an expansion which hasn't been seen since the second world war. We all have our eyes fixed on the Arab nations, when in fact the really important scene is the Islamic world. Things happen less in Palestine, Jordan in Syria and in Iraq, than in Afghanistan, in Indonesia, in the Philippines, or Pakistan."
Levy has no doubt that the plot's author was Omar Sheikh, who remains in a Pakistani jail waiting to appeal against his death sentence. But he is intrigued by what compelled Sheikh and his al-Qaida associates to choose Pearl. The theory he selects finally is that Pearl was killed with the assistance of the ISI because he knew too much about the exchange of nuclear intelligence between Pakistan (which at that time was already working as a close ally to the US) and al-Qaida. "Pearl was not merely any American or any Jew, he was a journalist who worked on these very specific subjects. My thesis is that his death was connected to the issues that he was investigating," Levy says.
It is not a thesis subscribed to by the Wall Street Journal, which points out that if Pearl had been making progress on such a sensational theme he would probably have discussed it with his editors. His father, Judea Pearl, is also sceptical. "This was a propaganda exercise," he says. "The motive, I believe, was the fact that for four months since 9/11 the US had been bombarding Afghanistan and there had been no reaction from al-Qaida. They felt the need to strike back and the easiest way to do this was to pick up an innocent US reporter. Especially given that he was Jewish."
Nevertheless, he is delighted at the book's appearance. "I appreciate the efforts of BHL in bringing this crime to the attention of the world and emphasising its importance," he says. He is also grateful at Levy's decision to donate half the author's rights in the English editions to Pearl's only child, Adam, who was born a few months after his father's death, and to the Daniel Pearl Foundation - which works to "minimise the hate of which he was a victim".
"I wrote it for the son - wrote it thinking of Adam Pearl," Levy says. "I think that one day or another, this child will discover the details of how his father died, regardless of the family's vigilence, their attempts to keep it secret. I wanted him to have two perspectives - that of the assassins expressed through the videos of the execution, but also, through the book, the point of view of someone who has taken the part of the victim."
Daniel Pearl? by Bernard Henri-Levy is published by Duckworth, price £20.
By Vanessa Gezari.
Vanessa Gezari is a journalist based in New Delhi who has
reported from Afghanistan for the Tribune
October 19, 2003
A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl
By Mariane Pearl, with Sarah Crichton
Scribner, 278 pages, $25
Who Killed Daniel Pearl?
By Bernard-Henri Levy, translated by James X. Mitchell
Melville House, 454 pages, $25.95
Read this article here
Looking for, and Finding, Danny Pearl
'Who Killed Daniel Pearl?' by Bernard-Henri Levy and 'A Mighty Heart' by Mariane Pearl with Sarah Crichton
By Jane Mayer,
a writer for the New Yorker
Wednesday, November 12, 2003; Page C04
WHO KILLED DANIEL PEARL?
By Bernard-Henri Levy
Melville House. 454 pp. $25.95
A MIGHTY HEART
The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl
By Mariane Pearl with Sarah Crichton
Scribner. 278 pp. $25
More than 18 months have passed since the Wall Street Journal's immensely likable and talented reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered while on assignment in Karachi, Pakistan. Confusion still surrounds both the identity of his killers and their motives. Last month, a senior White House official confidentially called Pearl's widow with the news that the United States now believes that a top al Qaeda terrorist, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, personally killed Pearl. Bush administration officials have offered no evidence for this conclusion, but it seems likely that KSM, as he is known, may have confessed while being held in U.S. custody for months. Yet meanwhile another psychopathic terrorist has been tried and convicted for the crime in Pakistan, a complication that is only one of many bizarre circumstances that lend the case an aura of international political intrigue.
From the start, Pearl's story grabbed the public by the heart. Only 38 years old at the time of his death, he was handsome, newly married, about to become a father. Well known as a felicitous writer of amusing features, he was just hitting his stride as a serious and ambitious chronicler of the political convulsions seizing the Islamic world. Pearl, whom I knew very slightly, seemed a perfect ambassador for Western enlightenment. He was Jewish but a friend to moderate Islam. He was well informed and a wonderful listener. He savored cultural, political and ethnic pluralism. He was also funny, unpretentious and musical, traveling the globe not just with an open notebook but also with a mandolin.
So it's not surprising that Pearl's tragic death has inspired two books, one of which reportedly has been optioned for a movie. What is somewhat surprising is that in many respects the less flawed of these books is not the one written by the world-famous intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy -- although it has become an international bestseller. Rather, the more reliable work was written by Pearl's widow, a French radio and television documentary journalist whose brief appearances pleading for her husband's life did little to raise expectations for such a wise, humane and emotionally honest book.
Levy's book, which is dedicated to the Pearls' infant son, is both more ambitious and more exasperating. Known in France as a glamorous and dashing figure, a celebrity philosopher famous enough to have a puppet modeled after him, Levy sets out here to invent a new genre, the roman-quête, part novel, part investigation. It's a beguiling idea, particularly when dealing with a subject that is as hard to get to the bottom of as the Pakistani state's complex relationship to radical Islamic terrorism. Is Pakistan friend or foe? Was its notorious secret intelligence service complicit in Pearl's murder, or did it support President Pervez Musharraf in his declared anti-terrorist alliance with the United States? Does Musharraf have control over the radical Islamists in his own country? If not, are Pakistan's nuclear weapons in danger of falling under militant Islamic control? Was Pearl's murder related in some way to uncovering this or some other dark secret? These are all essential and terrifying questions, well worth serious investigation. Levy is to be admired for asking them with such fierce passion.
But by resorting to "the imaginary" when the facts were unobtainable, or as he puts it, "facts, only the facts, and when the real was not available, some involuntary part of the imaginary looms," Levy has undermined his own credibility. The lack of footnotes or other textual clues exacerbates the problem. This is a shame, because Levy proves in this maddening book that he is capable of brilliant, exhaustive and courageous factual investigative reporting. His portrait of Sheik Omar Saeed, the British-educated Pakistani kidnapper who coldbloodedly entrapped Pearl, is dazzling in its exactitude, based on police reports, trial transcripts and interviews with Saeed's relatives, childhood teachers, classmates and cellmates.
Like Daniel Pearl, Levy, who is also Jewish, placed himself in considerable peril to pursue this story. Indeed, he writes that he was drawn to investigate Pearl's murder because he identified with him from afar. Yet Pearl was a journalist devoted to accuracy and fact, working for one of the best and most scrupulously edited newspapers in the world. Distinguishing fact from fiction, truth from myth, is how he died: He put his life on the line to get accurate information for an article. Levy can't possibly honor that high calling by fabricating parts of the story that prove too elusive to pin down. This is especially woeful given that he writes about a part of the world that is dangerously steeped in half-truths already.
In justifying this eccentric approach, Levy has cited the precedents of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" and Norman Mailer's "Oswald's Tale." He also has explained that the device was partly one of literary convenience. "By introducing elements of speculation it was possible to move forward when the investigation was stuck," he told the New York Times. But by writing with such license, he makes it all but impossible for readers to distinguish fact from fiction. Without real answers to some of his central questions, "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" is by necessity a provocative, disturbing and sometimes riveting work whose seriousness is impossible to gauge.
It may be unfair to compare the two books, because in many ways they are less competitive than complementary. Where Levy concerns himself with the labyrinthine connections and political sponsors of Pearl's killers, in the process providing a fascinating glimpse into the vast, dark web of al Qaeda, Mariane Pearl's book is smaller in scope, focusing on the police story as she searched Karachi in hope of her husband's rescue, and on a reason to love once she'd lost that hope. She continued to search for a reason to live. Her book is both a love story and a taut, well-paced, well-researched thriller set against the backdrop of international terrorism. It's easy to see why it was optioned by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston's production company.
Deftly written with the help of Sarah Crichton, formerly an editor at Newsweek and publisher at Little, Brown, "A Mighty Heart" resists the obvious peril of falling into hackneyed sentimentality. Instead of playing the part of the helpless, hopeless weeping widow while "screaming inside," Mariane Pearl is both sharp-eyed and practical, and at some points even mordantly amusing. She supplies many vivid details from her romance with Danny: the exuberant way he made the bed (diving face-down onto the mattress so he could reach two corners at the same time) to a list on his laptop computer detailing the reasons he loved her. She casts a sharp, unsentimental eye on herself as well, noting that her pregnancy is "simultaneously another person to worry about, spiritual consolation, and a public relations tool" useful in garnering public sympathy. Worldly-wise but not jaded, Mariane's singularly frank voice carries this story.
As she tries to force authorities to solve the case in Karachi, Mariane is joined by an improbable sidekick, the Pearls' wonderfully eccentric friend Asra Q. Nomani. A divorced Urdu-speaking American Muslim of Indian extraction who also had been a Wall Street Journal reporter, she had come to Karachi to research a book on Tantric sex.
To her own, and everyone else's, surprise, Nomani discovered that she, too, was pregnant, giving the nightmare an offbeat pregnant-buddy subtext. Together, these female gumshoes drove the largely hapless, and uniformly male, local authorities to dig ever deeper into Pearl's disappearance. With the clock ticking ominously, they searched his computer and notebooks, retraced his cell phone records and constructed a sprawling spiderweb of a diagram on their apartment wall, documenting all the Pearl contacts, suspects and movements.
Aided by a particularly devoted Pakistani investigator and by several helpful and brave U.S. officials, their search becomes a proxy for the West's effort to comprehend and decode the toxic subculture of terrorism. Meanwhile, the selfless camaraderie within this small, desperate entourage creates a humane narrative counterpoint to the inevitable inhumanity they will all be forced to face in Pearl's grisly murder.
Not just a personal tale, "A Mighty Heart" aims at dispensing with a number of troubling shibboleths about the case. Probably the most vexing is the persistent refrain voiced by some -- from President Musharraf on down -- who thought that Danny Pearl was somehow reckless, and so had contributed to his own demise. In searching for the truth, he was doing his job, his widow argues. Pearl had specifically declined to cover the war in Afghanistan in part because he didn't want to run the risks, she writes. He also begged for the paper to give its foreign correspondents better training for dangerous stories and better protective gear. He wanted to establish closer and more regular communication with the editors, so that they would sense early on if a reporter was in trouble. His memo, she points out, received no response.
The Wall Street Journal comes in for other criticism as well. Mariane Pearl recounts quite chillingly her husband's dismay upon learning, less than a month before his abduction, that the paper had publicly turned over to the CIA an al Qaeda computer that another of its reporters had inadvertently found: "Baby, we're in trouble," she recounts Danny as saying about this collaboration between press and government. While the paper had given this invaluable trove of information to officials for the best of patriotic reasons, Pearl evidently realized instantly that the act, which the paper publicized in a front-page story, placed him in jeopardy. As his wife writes, "When you are a journalist in a country like Pakistan, where you spend so much time trying to convince people you are not a spy, you aren't helped when the company you work for announces to the world that it is collaborating with the CIA." And indeed, Pearl's captors claimed that he was a spy.
American television journalists receive even more scathing treatment. Mariane Pearl's account of Connie Chung simultaneously hugging her soulfully and trying to finagle an interview is classic. Worse is her description of CBS News President Andrew Heyward trying to sound "empathetic" while insisting upon broadcasting the terrorists' videotape of Pearl being beheaded.
In the end, however, she wills herself to focus more on reconciliation than anger. The birth of her son provides a fitting close. She recalls that her husband had believed that their son would change the world. At the time, she'd felt this to be too much of a burden. But on the night after Adam was born, she whispered to him, "It is fine by me if you want to change the world." As she writes in the book's prologue, "the task of changing a hate-filled world belongs to each of us."
14 November 2003
If the influence of intellectuals is measured by the hatred they inspire, Bernard-Henri Lévy must be one of the most influential alive. It seems that no one can write about BHL - a uniquely French intellectual working at the intersection of politics, journalism and the academy - without dilating on his glamorous good looks, "sumptuous" apartment and "pouting" actress-wife. The rancour appears most splenetic in Britain, where there is no thinker with a comparable public profile and phil- osophers affect a certain pride in obscurity. The reaction against Lévy is little less venomous in France.
No doubt sheer jealousy accounts for much of the spleen, but that can hardly be the whole story. Lévy first came to notice in the mid-Seventies as the leading figure of the "new philosophers", who turned against Marxism when it was still the official creed of a large part of the French intelligentsia. In Barbarism with a Public Face he renounced his youthful Marxist-Leninist convictions and recounted the colossal costs of the Soviet experiment.
Lévy's unfashionable anti-communism earnt him the undying hatred of the French intellectual left. Yet his view of the Soviet Union was closer to the truth than conventional perceptions of the time. He was rewarded by being denounced as a CIA agent: a charge levelled by Jean-Paul Sartre, as he recalls in his recent study of the ghastly old fraud.
More even than his glamorous lifestyle, it is Lévy's skill in showing up the unreality of the conventional world-view that has most infuriated his critics. In Who Killed Daniel Pearl? he applies his contrarian intelligence to the kidnapping and murder on camera of the Wall Street Journal reporter, who was abducted in Karachi in January 2002. Behind the story of this atrocity, Lévy argues, lies a still darker tale.
Pearl was killed, he maintains, because he learnt of links between radical Islamic elements in the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence service), Pakistani scientists and al Qa'ida. This nexus threatens an era of terrorism, in which suicide warriors will come equipped with nuclear devices. In Lévy's view, Pearl's death was "the beginning of the grand struggle of the century".
In some ways, this is a compelling tale. Lévy is hardly the first to suggest links between Pakistani intelligence and radical Islam: there is evidence the ISI played a pivotal role in establishing the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan could become the world's first nuclear-equipped failed state. It presents a greater danger than North Korea, and incompar- ably more than Saddam's Iraq.
The trouble is that these facts and judgements do nothing to support Lévy's account of the reasons behind Pearl's murder. He describes this book as a romanquete - a cross between a novel and a piece of investigative journalism. In a context such as this, though, blurring fact with fiction is singularly unhelpful.
The reader needs to be told what is known and what is hypothesised. What exactly did Pearl find out, and when? When, and why, was the decision made to murder him? These may well be unanswerable questions, but if so Lévy had best admit it, otherwise the reader is left frustrated - and Levy's critics vindicated. By boldly mixing genres in this fascinating book, he has handed his many enemies another stick with which to beat him. An intriguing experiment on an important theme, Who Killed Daniel Pearl? would be more satisfying if it had been written as straight journalism.
John Gray's 'Straw Dogs' is published by Granta
Chris Petit finds heroism and chance in two accounts of a martyr to terrorism, Who Killed Daniel Pearl? and A Mighty Heart
Saturday February 21, 2004
Read this article here
Mar. 11, 2004 11:53
Who Killed Daniel
By Bernard-Henri Levy
Melville House Publishing
454 pp. $25.95
A Mighty Heart
By Mariane Pearl
320 pp. $25
Read this article here
Volume 50, Number 19 · December 4, 2003
Read this article here
Artikel erschienen am 4. Okt 2003
Bernard-Henri Lévy: Wer hat Daniel Pearl ermordet? Econ, München. 431 S., 24 EUR.
Daniel Pearls Witwe hatte den Autor gewarnt: Recherchieren Sie nicht allzu ausführlich über Omar Sheikh, den zum Tode verurteilten Mörder meines Mannes - leisten Sie nicht Beihilfe, ihn ins Rampenlicht zu stellen. Bernard-Henri Lévy schlug Mariane Pearls Wunsch in den Wind. Omar, dem in London aufgewachsenen Drahtzieher terroristischer Bluttaten, wird in Lévys Buch nicht nur Platz eingeräumt, er ist der eigentliche Protagonist. Seine Wandlung vom wohlerzogenen Jugendlichen aus bestem Hause, dem späteren Studenten der London School of Economics, zu dem in Bosnien fanatisierten jungen Dschihad-Kämpfer erinnert an Thomas Manns so erschreckend menschlichen Satan aus "Dr.Faustus". Pearl hingegen, den Lévy als seinen posthumen Freund und Bruder bezeichnet, bleibt eigenartig blass, fern - sieht man von der Begegnung mit seinen von tiefem Schmerz gezeichneten Eltern ab, die der Autor in Los Angeles besucht, wenige Monate nach Daniels Tod.
Die Schwerpunkte in der Untersuchung von Bé-Asch-Ell - wie Freunde und Widersacher den Pariser Philosophen und Schriftsteller nennen - sind ungeschickt verteilt: Der Autor setzt sich 200 Seiten lang nahezu ausschließlich mit Omar Scheikh auseinander, dies überragende Mittelstück beherrscht wie ein mächtiger Gebirgszug das umliegende Flachland. Im letzten Drittel lässt er Pearls Nemesis links liegen, als habe er sie vergessen oder besinne sich erst jetzt der Mahnung Mariane Pearls. BHL hat im Verlauf seiner zwölfmonatigen Suche nach der Wahrheit in sieben Ländern auf drei Kontinenten gewaltige Materialmengen angehäuft. Er will alles, aber auch alles, was ihm widerfuhr, was ihm auffiel, unterbringen, verliert dabei aber die Kontrolle über die Fäden, die er in der Darstellung Omars vorbildhaft zu führen wusste. Pearl, so erfahren wir immerhin, müsse einer undurchsichtigen Kooperation zwischen pakistanischen Nuklearwissenschaftern, dem pakistanischen Geheimdienst und Al Qaida auf die Spur gekommen sein. Dafür wurde er ermordet, nicht nur weil er ein amerikanischer Jude war: Der Journalist des "Wall Street Journal" sei mit großer Wahrscheinlichkeit auf Hinweise gestoßen, dass Pakistans Atombombe von bestimmten Kreisen auch als ein Werkzeug Allahs für den Heiligen Krieg der Zukunft betrachtet werde.
Als das Buch im Mai dieses Jahres in Frankreich erschien, begegnete ihm das deutsche Feuilleton nicht ohne Häme. Man bemängelte die Vermischung von Fakten und Fiktion, denn Lévy hatte den Fehler begangen, sein Werk als "Romanquête" zu bezeichnen, um die literarische Dimension seiner Arbeit hervorzuheben. In Wirklichkeit ist "Wer hat Daniel Pearl ermordet?" ein Sachbuch durch und durch, von einigen knappen Passagen abgesehen. Zu Beginn der Spurensuche etwa werden Augenblicke unmittelbar vor Pearls Ermordung geschildert. Der Autor malt sich da Daniels Gedanken und Gefühle aus, im Panikmoment vor seiner Abschlachtung, in den Sekunden unerträglicher Todesangst, bevor sein Kopf vor laufender Videokamera vom Rumpf getrennt wird. Dieser Moment liest sich weder peinlich noch besonders sensationslüstern: "Bis heute Morgen hätte er gesagt: Dieser Hof ist still, man hört kein Geräusch. Doch jetzt vernimmt er eine Lawine unvermuteter Laute. Nie zuvor in seinem Leben hat er den Geräuschen so aufmerksam gelauscht, die die Stille bevölkern."
Bernard-Henri Lévy hat das Pech, dass die Öffentlichkeit ihn mit seinem Image gleichsetzt. Das schneeweiße Hemd, immer halb offen. Der Lebensstil eines Maharadschah. Die arroganten Umgangsformen eines verwöhnten Söhnchens. Daher nimmt man ihm wahre, tiefe Empfindungen nur ungern ab, traut ihm vor allem die Mühsal einer präzisen Recherchearbeit nicht zu. Seine an Besessenheit grenzende Fahndung nach Pearls Mördern könnte sich als ein Klassiker des Gegenwartsjournalismus behaupten, stünde der Autor sich nicht seit Jahren selbst im Wege.
Zur Ehre gereicht Lévy die aufrichtige, wiederholte Betonung seiner Unsicherheit angesichts der eigenen Ermittlungen. Er hat den Mut, immer wieder Fragezeichen an das Ende seiner Sätze zu stellen. Umso erstaunlicher, dass am Schluss der verblüffende, unausgesprochene Eindruck entstehen muss, Omar Sheikhs Alleinschuld sei keineswegs bewiesen.
Auf sicherem Terrain bewegt sich Lévy bei der Schilderung einer Religionsschule, einer Madrassa, die sich in unmittelbarer Nähe des Gebäudes befindet, in dem Pearl hingerichtet wurde. Das Kapitel "Die Moschee der Taliban" zählt zum Beklemmendsten, das im Zusammenhang mit dem von Al Qaida vom Zaum gebrochenen Dritten Weltkrieg bisher zu lesen war. Die Schule, in einem Außenbezirk von Karachi, ist ein Vorhof zur Hölle. Und die Klapptür, die Lévy zu sehen glaubt, als er den Hof zum zweiten Mal überquert, führt ins Unbekannte, ins Unsichtbare, so wie in diesem Buch überall Klapptüren in noch viel tiefere Labyrinthe hinabführen, in denen man definitiv die Orientierung verlieren muss. Es ist ein Wunder, dass BHL seine Reportagearbeit bei lebendigem Leib überstanden hat.