The French philosopher condemns Trump for withdrawing troops: ‘I don’t know which of his justifications is more stupid’.
As Congress joined the widespread condemnation of Donald Trump’s withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria and exposed the Kurds living there to Turkish assault, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has launched a stinging attack on a “fundamental betrayal” of both the Kurds and American values.
“It is a terrible deceit for democracy, a nightmare for the Kurdish people and, alas, completely predictable,” Lévy told the Guardian in an interview.
Lévy published a book earlier this year, The Empire and the Five Kings, predicting that America would abandon its role in the region, leaving it to the ambitions of Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and Saudi-backed Sunni radical Islam.
“I don’t know which of Trump’s justifications for the withdrawal of US troops is more stupid – to say that the Kurds did not fight at Normandy, or to say, unlike Saudi Arabia, Kurds do not buy enough American goods.
“I could not believe he would play his cards so openly or in such an obscene way,” Lévy continued. “It surpasses all my worst predictions.”
On Wednesday, in a rare break with a president they are typically unwilling to criticize, two-thirds of Republicans in the House of Representatives, including all of the party’s elected leaders, joined Democrats in approving a resolution opposing Trump’s decision to greenlight Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s assault on the Kurds in semi-autonomous north-eastern Syria.
Turkey’s president “is fulfilling his war goals, and he’s doing that with the encouragement of the United States, and to the indifference of the international community. As soon as his target is fulfilled, he will say ‘I am a good guy and I will adhere to international pressure’. And all of this will be done under the umbrella of the alleged peacemaker Vladimir Putin. It is a nightmare for the Kurdish people and, alas, predictable.”
The other winner, Lévy asserts, is Iran. The practical consequence of the withdrawal of US troops is to aid its effort to establish a corridor of military control from Tehran to Beirut.
In a speech aired on Iranian television on Monday, Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, boasted that Iran has now created “territorial continuity” by connecting Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
“Iran has completed it goal,” Lévy says. “Isis, which was on the edge of being defeated, has regained its head. That the word of America is becoming worthless is the source of great anxiety for Israel, and the US has no regional ally that can now sleep quietly.”
On Thursday the US vice-president, Mike Pence, announced that Turkey had agreed to a five-day ceasefire in Syria,to allow Kurdish fighters to leave the strip of territory where they have set up their administration. Trump tweeted that it was “a great day for civilization”, but the deal essentially gives Turkey what it had sought to achieve with its incursion and places no obligation on Erdoğan to withdraw his forces.
Lévy, no enemy to dressing simplistic ideas in shiny, philosophical costume, has made two films about the Kurdish resistance: Pershmerga and The Battle of Mosul, and he argues that when the US abandons the Kurds it abandons its own values.
“This is an act of suicide for America directed by Donald Trump and we Europeans are taken in the process.
“For the principles of America, for the values of America, for the creed of America, this is suicide. Whatever Trump says in the next hours, days or weeks, his words have no value, and it will take time for American words again to have value. For the moment they are worth zero.”
Lévy is no stranger to controversy himself. He has written extensively about his love for America, has come under fire for his support of France’s burqa ban, his “unconditonal love” of Israel and claimed a role in encouraging the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, throwing the country into violent chaos.
Equally controversial has been his criticism of rape cases against Roman Polanski and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the IMF. Lévy claimed Strauss-Kahn, a friend, had been “thrown to the dogs”.
But he is deeply concerned over America’s retreat from its role on the world stage.
Lévy says his friends in America, from both sides of the political spectrum, “are ashamed of what is happening”.
“We have seldom seen such a betrayal. Of course in all wars you have blood on your hands. Generally it is the blood of your enemies. In this case it is the blood of your friends.”