• Random Quote

    If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.

    — Woody Allen

Triumph of the Shrill – Christopher Hitchens vs. Michael Moore on 9/11

Hitchens appears to have seized on this infantile Manicheanism as his cause celebes. “Islamic fascism is an enemy for life, as well as an enemy of life,” he adds. Hitchens, in short, has launched his own jihad. (Consider that over 20 million people are severely injured or killed on the roads each year.33 In 2002 in the U.S. alone 42,815 were killed in auto accidents.34 This doesn’t even include the impending devastation of the biosphere from global warming. If Hitchens truly wants to do something utilitarian how about a jihad against cars?)

How does one ignore the dangers of a Christian-Zionist crusade in the Middle East linking up with corporate-militarism run amuck? You create cartoon politics: Bush (and Blair) strut about as Churchill, and Hitchens boldly steps forward as our Orwell, battling Osama and Islamic totalitarianism. Any defects in this delusion? First off, these are pygmies masquerading in the raiment of giants. Or as Winston C. himself put it, “When the war of giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin.” And as someone at the American Enterprise Institute, maybe it was Jeanne Kirkpatrick, once adlibbed, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.”

Studs Terkle, disheartened by Hitchens bullyboy backing of the Bush wars, writes to Chris:

“It discombobulates me that your stalwart Orwellian self has become aligned with the wanton boy swatting flies. Remember the line from King Lear: “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;/ They kill us for their sport.” That a wanton boy, at this moment in history, is the most powerful man in the world is an absurd fact. It’s a scenario that can have been written only by that master of outrageous humor W.C. Fields. It grieves me that one as gifted as you has chosen to play second banana to the wanton boy in a burlesque skit that’s not very funny.”

Even former admirers such as Dennis Perrin fear that Hitchens is degenerating into a course version of the ranting reactionary Norman Podhoretz. Perrin writes:

“In several pieces, including an incredibly condescending blast against Nelson Mandela, Hitch went on and on about WMD, chided readers with “Just you wait!” and other taunts, fully confident that once the U.S. took control of Iraq, tons of bio/chem weapons and labs would be all over the cable news nets—with him dancing a victory jig in the foreground. Now he says WMD were never a real concern, and that he’d always said so. It’s amazing that he’d dare state this while his earlier pieces can be read at his website. But then, when you side with massive state power and the cynical fucks who serve it, you can say pretty much anything and the People Who Matter won’t care.”

In his obituary for Hitchens in the Gawker, John Cook nails the great ‘contrarian’: “The great tragedy of Hitchens’ life was that, toward its end, he aligned himself so stridently with the very fools, cowards, and charlatans who most desperately invited exposure by his prodigious skills as butcher. How can someone who devoted so much of his life to as noble a cause as destroying the reputation of Henry Kissinger blithely stand shoulder to shoulder with Rumsfeld?”

Occasionally, Hitchens attempts to reconcile the chasm between his present and past politics by claiming that the U.S., once a naughty nation he chided for killing 3 million civilians in SE Asia, backing Death Squads in Central America, and supporting murderous dictators such as…well, the list is long, but let’s say Pinochet in Chile, has now reformed itself. It is not Hitchens, the intellectual Gibraltar, that has changed, but U.S. foreign policy, which now decamps on the side of History (and Hegel). Untidily, the U.S. has just toppled Aristide, a reformer elected in a landslide, and brought back the jubilant Haitian death squads to make amends. (Our fickle friends the French, annoyed by Haiti’s demands for restitution, gave us a hand.) The Bushites have aggressively pursued another popular elected leader in Venezuela. His crime? He’s giving a cut of national oil profits to the poor. Democracy is a smiley face to hide behind for political legitimacy, but when it interferes with hegemony and profits then the War Party discards it.

It is precisely to support Enlightenment values that we must oppose the new imperial wars that Hitchens touts. Violence and injustice, built on pediments of propaganda and gibberish, will birth nothing more than extremism, lunacy, and greater violence. As F.9/11 shows, terrorism–especially State terrorism–is real, but the ‘war on terrorism’ is a fraud. The war spreads the very plague it claims to cure. As the world totters on the brink of peak oil, imperial wars for hydrocarbons are dangerous and destabilizing. Any serious effort to achieve peace requires, first, a just solution to the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Secondly, to stabilize Iraq the American invaders (and the coalition of the baffled) must depart, and permit the Iraqis to govern and rebuild their own country with their own revenues.

 

The Iraqi Team in Athens

Iraqi Football Team

Bush in a cynical attempt to glom onto the remarkable success of the Iraqi football team, tried to claim credit for their appearance at the Olympics. The players and coaches quickly voiced their displeasure of him.  Salih Sadir said he was angry at Bush’s campaign adverts. “Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign,” said the Iraqi player. “He can find another way to advertise himself.” He called for US troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. “We don’t wish for the presence of the Americans in our country. We want them to go away.” Coach Adnan Hamad added, “My problems are not with the American people. They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything…the American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the stadium and there are shootings on the road?”

Another star player, 22-year-old Ahmed Manajid, asked: “How will [Mr Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes.” Ahmed Manajid comes from Falluja where the U.S. continues to kill numerous civilians while trying to crush the insurgency. He said that if were not playing football he would be fighting with the resistance against the American invaders. “I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?” he asked. “Everyone [in Falluja] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Falluja people are some of the best people in Iraq.”35

 

Emad Mohammed and Basim Abbas, 2004

Iraqi Football Players Celebrate Goal

 

It is young men such as Ahmed that Bush and Hitchens believe must be killed. Not that Hitchens (or Bush) would have the guts to face Mr. Manajid himself, mind you. No, he will send some poor black kid from Detroit to do the job for him. Intellectuals mustn’t muss their hands with blood or endanger themselves facing armed antagonists.

Certainly, Moore’s film is not beyond reproach, but Hitchens’ piece is driven solely by ideology and rancor. We know, of course, that Moore is partisan and unlikely to show Bush as the straight-shooting, evil-doer smashing Marshall Dillon that his supporters would like us to see. Almost all of the accusations, however, that Hitchens levels against Moore—lack of objectivity, faulty facts, contradictions, ‘jeering and sneering’, distorted arguments—are far more evident, ironically, in the review than in the film. If Moore’s attacks on Bush and the ‘war on terror’ are correct, then Hitchens’ jihad is a sham, and one might infer that Hitchens is either, objectively speaking, a fool or a toady for Empire. That could, presumably, explain Hitchens wrath towards Moore, a man, as far as I’m aware, who has never attacked Hitchens personally.

Hitchens, tragically, has devolved into a grotesque political chimera—with the rump of Leon Trotsky, the body of a NASCAR granny, and the braying head of Dick Cheney. Whatever you think of Moore and his filmmaking, you should not forget the voices he brings to the screen. Voices rarely heard in the corporate echo machine. Forget all the frantic denunciations of F. 9/11 and just remember the words of the quiet African-American Marine Corporal Henderson, a real hero, a man who will go to jail for his principles. “I will not go over there to kill poor people when they are no threat to me or my country.”

“The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.”                                                   Thomas Paine

 

[1] Christopher Hitchens, Slate, June 21,2004. http://slate.msn.com/id/2102723/

[2] Chris Parry, http://efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1150 6/23/ 2004.

[3] Christopher Hitchens, Of Sin, the Left & Islamic Fascism, The Nation, 10/08/01.

[4] Mark Seddon, Clearing up America’s Mess, The Guardian, December 18, 2001.

[5] Bob Graham, Intelligence Matters, 2004.

[6] Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes, The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, 2000. Richard Sale, UPI, ‘Saddam key in early CIA plot’, 4/10/2003.

[7] Arnaud de Borchgrave, Defense Bleatings?, Washington Times, December 19, 2003. Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, Behind the War on Terror, 2003. An excellent source of historical background and analysis.

[8] BBC, U.S. Refused Iraq Terror Suspect Offer, 6/03/2002. CBS News, 60 Minutes, June 02, 2002.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/06/02/60minutes/main510847.shtml

[9] Herman, Edward S. and Brodhead, Frank. The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection. New York: Sheridan Square Publications, 1986.

[10] Seymour Hersh, A Case Not Closed, Issue 1993-11-01 of New Yorker.

[11] David Hirst, Abu Nidal, The Guadian, August 20,2002. Mohammed Najib, Abu Nidal Murder Trail Leads Directly to Iraq Regime, Janes Information Group.

[12] Gore Vidal, The Enemy Within, The Observer, October 27, 2002.

[13] Michael Meacher, The Pakistan Connection,The Guardian, July 22, 2004. Wall Street Journal, 10/10/01.

[14] Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, Pantheon Books, 2004. (An insightful overview of the origins of ‘terror’ in the Middle East.)

[15] Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, 2003.

[16] Christopher Hitchens, Why Orwell Matters, 2002.

[17] Bill Weinberg, ‘Yes, Orwell Matters but Does Christopher Hitchens?’ http://www.worldwar3report.com/article.pl?sid=03/08/08/2343200&tid=6

[18] George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia.

[19] Scott Johnson, ‘Lost in the Green Zone’, Newsweek, Sept. 20, 2004.

[20] Christopher Hitchens, The Chorus and Cassandra,Grand Street,Autumn, 1985.

[21] On MSNBC Scarborough 3/11/04

[22] ‘Group: Science policy swayed by politics’ CNN.com, July 9, 2004. http://edition.cnn.com/2004/TECH/science/07/09/bush.science.reut/

[23] Mark Townsend & Paul Harris, ‘Now the Pentagon tells Bush: Climate Change will Destroy Us’, The Observer, Feb. 22, 2004.

[24] Tim Lahaye & Jerry Jenkins, Glorious Appearing: The End of Days, 2004.

[25] Ewen MacAskill, ‘Afghanistan could implode’, The Guardian, July 30, 2004.

[26] Sarah Left, The Guardian, 7/28/2004, Afghan report.

[27] Thomas E. Ricks, ‘U.S. Adopts Aggressive Tactics’, Washington Post, July 28, 2003.

[28] Sean Raymond, ‘British Commanders Condemn U.S. Military Tactics’, April 12, 2004, The Telegraph http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/04/11/1081621835663.html

[29] Patrick Cockburn, ‘U.S. gives conflicting accounts’, The Independent, Sept. 16, 2004.

[30] Peter Graff, ‘Iraq War Swells al Qaeda’s Ranks’, Reuters, IISS Annual Report,

[31] Mark Kingwell, ‘Three Intellectuals in Search of an Empire’, Globe and Mail, July 12, 2003.

[32] ‘A View from the Patriotic Left’, The Boston Globe, September 9, 2002.

[33] World Health Organization, ‘Road traffic hazards: hidden epidemics’, http://www.who.int/whr/2003/chapter6/en/index3.html

[34] Car-Accidents.com, http://www.car-accidents.com/pages/stats.html

[35] ‘Iraqi footballers fury at Bush’, BBC News, August 20, 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3584242.stm

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