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In WAR, EVIL AND THE END OF HISTORY, Bernard-Henri Lévy continues his daring investigation into the breeding grounds of terrorism with a series of riveting first-person reports from five of the world's most horrific "forgotten" war zones. In Sri Lanka, he ...
In WAR, EVIL AND THE END OF HISTORY, Bernard-Henri Lévy continues his daring investigation into the breeding grounds of terrorism with a series of riveting first-person reports from five of the world's most horrific "forgotten" war zones. In Sri Lanka, he conducts a clandestine interview with a terrified young woman escaped from a suicide-bomber training camp . . . he journeys, blindfolded, into the Colombian jungle to interview a psychotic drug lord who considers himself the successor to Che Guevara and fronts a bloodthirsty "guerilla" army . . . Lévy surreptitiously observes the nameless slaves working the diamond mines that fund an endless war in Angola . . . airdrops into a rebel stronghold in the blockaded Nuba mountains of the Sudan . . . and reports on the ongoing carnage in Burundi between Hutus and Tutsis. But Lévy is more than just a journalist: as France's leading philosopher, he follows the reports with a series of intensely personal and probing "reflections" considering how, in an enlightened, cultured, and well-informed society, these wars have acquired such a perverse "non-meaning." He considers war literature from Stendhal, Hemingway, Proust and others, and issues an excoriating response to those who have glorified it. He reconsiders his own background as a student revolutionary in Paris in May 1968, and as a 22-year-old war reporter in Bangladesh. And, in one of the book's most moving passages, he recounts his travels with Ahmad Massoud, the anti-Taliban Afghan leader assassinated hours before the September 11 attacks. Already a huge bestseller in Europe, WAR, EVIL, AND THE END OF HISTORY is the work of a scintillating intellect at the height of its powers. Bernard-Henri Lévy's previous book foresaw today's headlines about Pakistan's secret trading of nuclear technology and the nexus of terrorist groups behind the murder of Daniel Pearl. WAR, EVIL, AND THE END OF HISTORY is his brilliant foray into the next danger zones.
Old Holden Roberto can't get over it (1). Tonight, in Luanda, he has seen, with his own eyes, a truck full of Cubans and Soviets pass by beneath the windows of his house. My obvious surprise, my exclamations, are of no use. In vain I explain to him that the Cubans left Angola ten years ago and that the rare few that stayed have become dentists on the Marginal. He insists. Almost gets angry. And now this former fighter for the war of independence, this party leader, who has become, with time, this little gentle-looking man, with the cautious and conciliatory manners, with impeccably coiffed white hair, launches into a strange speech in which his glorious past is mixed up with hallucinations of the present: a jumbled confusion of insurrection against the Portuguese; the war, almost immediately afterwards, against the Marxists of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), who are victorious and oust him from power; Sartre on Capri; Fanon, who was a friend of his; and then that dark story of the Cubans, his enemies from long ago, he is sure he sees them returning, on certain nights, like ghosts, to the city.
"Go see," he insists. "Go into the muceques. You'll see." And the old lion repeats, in a voice that's suddenly more high-pitched, that, yes, it's not unusual, some nights, to see the crazy people of Luanda escaping from the psychiatric hospital. They aren't given anything to eat. Nothing to drink. So they climb over the wall, the poor madmen. They pass through the camp's barbed wire. They turn up in the middle of the city, naked, incoherent, rummaging through trashcans. And that's what the Cubans are doing. And that's why they're combing the neighborhoods. They're hunting down the madmen of Futungo and killing them with a bullet in the head from a silencer. At which point he again changes register and, quite calmly, solemnly, with a trace of pride, takes out of his pocket that day's edition of the Journal of Angola where he shows me, in a corner of an inside page, a tiny article entitled "El grido des vielho"-"The Cry of the Old Man"-which calls for an end to hostilities. I am the "old man," he says apologetically. There are two of us "old men" in Angola: Jonas Savimbi, my ally from long ago, whom they call "o Mas-Velho," the oldest man, and me. Do you want me to tell you about the war in Angola? Do you want me to tell you about the fifteen years of the war of liberation, then the twenty-five years of the war between the Angolans-on one side the MPLA and, on the other, Savimbi's UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola,) which refuses to admit defeat and continues the fight from the bush? Fifteen plus twenty-five, that makes forty: isn't that the longest war in the history of humanity?
I went, of course, into the muceques of Luanda. I went, near the Roque Santeiro market, into the leprous slums of the city where I saw, not madmen, but men with one leg, the disabled, the ten-year-old prostitutes, the packs of children with nothing to do who sleep in cardboard shacks, women with gargoyle heads, men who no longer have any face at all. I saw, in this rich city, weighed down by the manna of oil and diamonds, buildings so dilapidated that they no longer have running water, so their stairwells are used as toilets. And I even saw, in front of these buildings, elite policemen, the "anti-motims," armed with assault rifles, giving chase to "anti-social elements." But no sign, of course, of Cubans, or of Soviets, those ghosts who haunt the imagination of the "old man" of the war of Angola. Light from dead stars. Inertia of past battles. This very old war. The oldest, and, along with the war of Sudan, the bloodiest of all of today's wars. And this feeling, straight away, that the dead command the living, and that it's the ghosts who program and manufacture corpses. Five hundred thousand dead. Four million displaced. Why?
Huambo. I remember Dominique de Roux, at the Avenida Palace Hotel in Lisbon, then in the control tower of the Lusaka airport, in Zambia, where he spent entire days scanning the African sky, waiting for the plane of Savimbi, his hero: Huambo ... Huambo ... the President is coming from Huambo ... the President is leaving for Huambo ... he kept repeating this word, Huambo ... it was the capital of his African Mao ... it was his Yenan, his red base ... and he could not utter the name without a visible and incantatory joy (2) ... Of this Huambo, heart of the country of the Ovimbundu, Savimbi's ethnic group, of this former Nova Lisboa, which, in the end, he almost immediately lost and which, with the exception of a brief interlude in 1993 and 1994, never left the bosom of the MPLA, there remains an abandoned train station with steam-engine trains from the beginning of the century; the building of the "Compania do Ferrocaril," also abandoned-twenty years since a train has entered this besieged city! twenty years since one has left it!-and they even discovered, last month, the existence of seven hundred forgotten employees who went on strike because they hadn't been paid, now, for twenty years; there are some colonial houses, pink and decorated with flowers, including the house of Savimbi himself, shattered by a bomb, the central staircase still standing, untrained bougainvilleas tumbling into the ruins; and then there are the amputees; ruins and amputees; how many amputees, in twenty years, in Angola? How many of these badly made stumps, impossible to fit with artificial limbs, ulcerous? How many of these bodies reduced to a pulp, poorly mended, terrifying, for which Huambo, like Luanda, will be the shroud? No one knows; the government doesn't care, and no one knows anything about them (3).
Since the city is completely landlocked, with the UNITA forces still camped at its gates, I arrived by plane. Not a flight on SAL, the national airline, which are cancelled every other day. But one of those Beechcraft planes, run by private companies, piloted by Russians, South Africans or Ukrainians, and which, even if their cabins are decaying, their doors bent and their navigational instruments half broken, even if they are the ones that transport all the country has in the way of traffickers, vultures, real and counterfeit prospectors for oil and diamonds, do at least have the advantage of taking off every day. The real difficulty is landing. The Stingers of the UNITA have to be avoided, they're there, in the forest, on the edge of the security perimeter; last year they shot down, one after the other, two Hercules C-130's from the United Nations. But Joe, the pilot, is used to it. The idea is to climb very quickly, to 20,000 feet, into the clouds. The idea is, above all, to stay there as long as possible, until you're absolutely positive you're exactly above the city of destination, and then to descend suddenly, in a spiral dive, while still remaining perpendicular to the runway and waiting till the last minute to level out the craft-all done instinctually, since the airport in Huambo, like all Angolan airports, no longer has a control tower. "Listen to that," the pilot says, a fierce smile on his lips as he cuts his engines. I listen, but I don't hear anything, deafened by the suddenness of the descent. "I think there's an attack on the airport." And, in fact, he is not mistaken. Like all the people of his kind, like all the mercenaries of the air who spend their time flying to and fro across the Angolan sky, he is an ear, a nose, a news agency all on his own. And I learn, upon my arrival, that there has just been, in the Santa Ngoti district, a raid by the UNITA, or by the dissidents of the UNITA, or by the starving soldiers who pass for militants or dissidents of the UNITA-the only thing certain is that the assailants rose up and united the village, that their leader made a speech, and that the inhabitants brought bowls of food.
In Huambo itself, everything is in turmoil. Not so much because of the raid on the Santa Ngoti district. But because of the presence in the city of another detachment of soldiers, these from the government, who arrived the night before on their way to "re-establish order" further south, on the side of the Serra do Chilengue, where the UNITA had attacked another village. They too are strange, these soldiers. They say they are there to establish order. But they wander about in a conquered land. They drive their machinery on the former General Norton de Matos square, across from the government's "Palacio." And one of them, the best-dressed, their leader no doubt, shouts out for all to hear that he's thirsty, serves himself at the stall of a vegetable and soda merchant, takes me for a humanitarian aid worker and shouts: "Why this aid for the rebels? What about us? Why aren't there any standards? Don't our children have malaria?" and then, half undressing himself, brandishing his weapon, he says that it's rained, he's soaked, and someone should dry his clothes. "Excuse him," says the soda merchant, "he's not Angolan, he's a South African." A South African in the service of Luanda and the government? For an instant, like Holden Roberto, I think back to the time when the South Africans were on the side of Savimbi, trained him in night combat and formed his best battalions. And then, yes, of course: that was the other South Africa, the one of apartheid and death squads in the townships of Johannesburg; that was the other time, the era of the cold war and of the great planetary confrontation for which Angola was one of the theaters; how time passes....
Kuito. I wanted to go to Kuito by road, from Huambo. So I took advantage of a convoy of trucks that was returning from Lobito, on the coast, with a cargo of logs and water stored in plastic bags. "It's not bad," the driver of the lead truck told me. "If they pay me for the risks I run, and if they don't ask me to drive at night, it's not too bad." We waited for an hour, north of the city, for the Sonangol oil depot to open (in Angola, the fourth largest oil producer in Africa, there are no gas pumps). It took us two more hours to get to Vila Nova, thirty kilometers to the east-a good road on the map but full of potholes, endless detours through fields that stank from the bad smell of unharvested crops rotting in the field , unharvested in all likelihood, because of the landmines (Angola holds the world record for its number of landmines-one per inhabitant, at least ten million ...). More nervousness, again, when the convoy slows down too much, for that's the easiest time, as I know, for looters to attack the cargo. "You're afraid?" says the driver. "Don't worry. You have a nice jacket. They'll take your jacket, not your life." Then one more hour to arrive, ten kilometers later, at Bela Vista where we are stopped, this time for good, by an officer claiming that they're fighting, further east, in Chingar, and that, in any case, the bridge is broken. How long do we have to wait? He doesn't know. So I had to drive back in my hired car, which had been in back of the convoy. And once again it was a plane that would take me to Kuito.
They had warned me. My old friend, the journalist Tamar Golan, who had become the Israeli ambassador and who had fallen in love with Angola, had told me clearly: "Kuito is Sarajevo; it's Mostar; it's the martyred city par excellence, the most destroyed city in Africa; you'll see, it's atrocious." But there's a big difference between what you're told and what you see; a world of difference separates numbers (two wars; twenty-one months of siege; up to a thousand shells per day) and the shock of these walls blackened by fire, these piles of rubble, these sad landscapes, these poor people who have come back home to Joachin-Kapango Street where the front line passed through, but who live there now crammed into sheet-metal houses or under tarpaulins; and there's a huge difference between the idea-that in the middle of the Bosnian war, when my eyes, like those of so many others, were glued to the ordeal of Sarajevo, another city was dying, whose most beautiful buildings are reduced, like the Kuito Hotel, or the Bishop's Palace, or the five floors of the Gabiconta building, to their concrete skeletons (4)-and the image of these devastated streets, sometimes without water, at some times of the day without electricity, visited only by military vehicles, humanitarian 4 X 4's, and, at night, after curfew, starving, drunken policemen, who seem as if they'll do anything to get away from what, in their eyes, has become the seat of hell itself. "Hi boss," one of them says to me, a glimmer of hope in his eyes. "Can you give me a gazosa? A cigarette?" Then, acting friendly: "You know people in Huambo? In Benguela? Can you get me transferred? It's too hot here."
A lot of energy was required to achieve this disaster. Not just energy, bad will and murderous intentions, but also a lot of weapons, a lot of shells, a lot of tanks firing point blank, for a lot of days, over the principal avenue. This war may be a war of the poor. It is definitely a war of the squalid, of the seamy, since I've seen only sleazy, squalid people since I've been here. But it is also a war of the rich. It's a war that, in any case, smells of the money of traffickers in tanks and guns. They say that the operation of the oil reserves of Cabinda, in the north of the country, alone brings President Dos Santos between 3 and 4 billion dollars per year. They also say that the diamonds of the Lundas bring Savimbi a half-billion. And above all they say that this money is reinvested, at 60% for the one, 80% for the other, in military equipment. How can we not guess that it's this money that gives the ruins of Kuito their smell? Back again in Luanda, I learn that, in Paris, everyone's talking about the possible involvement of Mitterand's son, and a few others, in an enormous arms sale bound for blasted and profitable Angola: why don't they all come, as penance, to Kuito, to contemplate the fruits of their business?
Porto Amboim. By road, this time. All the way. I've been told about a detachment of the UNITA that's been operating in the north, around Calulo. I've also been told about population movements of undetermined origin in the region of Ebo, more to the south. But about this road, the road that runs alongside the sea and, after Porto Amboim, goes as far as Benguela-a Dominican priest who uses it fairly frequently has told me it's reliable. The bridge over the Cuanze is being worked on, but it's passable. One checkpoint-this will be the only one-where I have to negotiate a little but where they just take down my license number. The Perdizes River. The Muengueje. A nature park, stocked with lions and elephants, which the President offered as a gift to his Chief of Staff. Another river, the Longa, with, in its loops, a jungle zone held by the UNITA but where I still don't meet anyone.
Excerpted from war, evil, and the end of history by bernard-henri lévy Copyright © 2004 by MELVILLE HOUSE PUBLISHING. Excerpted by permission.
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|1||The Black Diamonds of Angola||9|
|2||The Long March of the Tigers||29|
|3||The End of History in Bujumbura?||51|
|4||The Headaches of Carlos Castano||71|
|5||The Pharaoh and the Nuba||91|
Posted October 28, 2009
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Posted August 30, 2009
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