Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Terror’s Advocate

Jacques Vergès is a lawyer—a lawyer who makes Lynne Stewart seem like Atticus Finch. At the conclusion of Barbet Schroeder’s new documentary on Vergès, Terror’s Advocate, snapshots of a handful of his clients appear on the screen. It’s not a pretty list: Vergès has served as legal counsel for Slobodan Milosevic, Klaus Barbie, Carlos the Jackal, and Tariq Aziz, to name a few. A die-hard radical born to a Vietnamese mother and French father, Vergès cut his teeth defending members of the Algerian National Liberation Front. From there, supposedly in the name of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism, he has represented and associated with a smorgasbord of terrorists, Nazi-sympathizers, Islamists, dictators, and thugs.

It is to Schroeder’s great credit that his documentary avoids grandstanding and allows the viewer to come to his own conclusions about its subject. One might have expected this to be the case: Schroeder’s previous films include General Idi Amin Dada (1974), a fascinating and poker-faced examination of the psychopathic Ugandan dictator.

Whereas Idi Amin came across in the earlier film as creepily genial and unhinged, Vergès seems smug and self-important. As he chirpily recaps his career for the camera, he appears utterly oblivious to its moral dubiousness. And no wonder: At one point in the film, a good friend of his claims that Vergès would blithely be a terrorist himself, except for the fact that such a career wouldn’t allow him to indulge in his expensive tastes.

The end result is an engaging and disturbing documentary that investigates the relationship between revolutionary idealism and moral odiousness.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.