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How Chris Hitchens saved the Americans from the wrath of Michael Moore


5:41 pm - December 22nd 2011

by Flying Rodent    


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Picture the scene:  It’s early June 2004, and I’m on holiday in Massachusetts, the heartland of Democratic America.  The skies are blue and flags are flying.  Even in this bluest-of-blue states, you’d never know that the United States is currently embroiled in its largest, most violent war since Vietnam. 

The news channels are talking about Ronald Reagan 24/7, in preparation for the old fraud’s funeral.  Over and over. I have no idea what’s happening on the screen or why.

In an internet cafe, the BBC News webpage describes car bombs and death in Iraq and how Attorney General John Ashcroft has denied government involvement in military torture programmes. The BBC correspondent Frank Gardner has just been shot and crippled in Saudi Arabia, and his cameraman Simon Cumber killed.

What political news there is, is anodyne, he-said-she-said piffle.  When Iraq gets a mention, it’s because the President has compared the invasion and occupation to World War II.  USA! USA! 

Then one morning, I find Fox News.  I’m vaguely aware of it and watch a few minutes – it’s a repeat of the previous day’s Bill O’Reilly Show, and big Bill is pissed off.  Michael Moore, who I know from The Awful Truth and Bowling For Columbine, has made a new film that claims George W. Bush bombed the Twin Towers, or something.  Michael Moore is a traitor, a communist and is also fat. 

I enjoy my holiday – visit New York, Cape Cod, Walden Pond and so on, and then head home with a suntan, some duty free and whacking great stars ‘n’ stripes I bought to use up the last of my dollars. 

Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 hits the news channels like a thunderbolt.  It’s a one-eyed, entirely partisan demolition job on the Bush administration’s response to the Al Qaeda attack on America and its subsequent invasion of Iraq.  It makes a series of specific and powerful claims… 

1)  That President Bush is a chump.  Most Americans have never seen the film footage of him sitting dumbly in that classroom listening to a reading from a children’s book while the World Trade Centre burns.  Now, it’s being shown on heavy rotation on cable news. 

2) That the Bush administration is so closely intertwined with the Saudi royal family that it spirited Bin Laden family members out of the country at its behest.  Moore asks, can these people be trusted to have Americans’ best interests at heart?  

3)  That the US government intentionally exploited Americans’ fear and alarm to stampede through regressive legislation and to launch a war on Iraq that was based almost entirely upon a series of astonishing lies and propaganda wheezes. 

4)  That the American media obediently reported everything that the government told it to, without seriously questioning any aspects major or minor, and that 

5)  US soldiers and Iraqi civilians are dying in large numbers thanks to that war, and that the administration that launched it are utterly clueless on what to do about it. 

America has no idea what to make of the film.  It contradicts everything that they’ve been told, everything they take for granted.

The news channels and print press, as is the way of things in the US, report the controversy.  The Democratic Party welcomes bad press for their political foes, but are as always too spineless to seize the opportunity, afraid to appear weak or unpatriotic. 

The Republicans and their media creatures flail desperately, hurling insults and denials this way and that, but the damage is done.  The frame has shifted – the discussion is no longer about Saddam Hussein’s invented Al Qaeda links and fictional weapons, but is about whether the Bush administration is full of liars and the war on Iraq unjust and insane. 

For the first time, America is on the verge of seeing itself the way that the rest of the world has seen it, this past few years – as a dangerous, wounded animal lashing out at easy targets, led by mendacious propagandists and opportunists.  The US diplomatic service is so alarmed that it attempts to block screenings of the film.  

But what’s that portly figure on the horizon?  He’s striding towards us with determination and a glint in his eye, hiking up his trousers around his rotund waist and steeling his will.  Who is this man?  What could he possibly want? 

Why, it’s Christopher Hitchens, and he’s here to save the day for war, destruction and the Republican Party!   Hallelujah, brothers, for Hitchens has rescued the American People from reality! 

I exaggerate, of course.  Hitchens’ piece was the first serious attempt to rebut Moore’s movie, and he scores some good hits.  The Afghanistan section is, as Hitch says, pissweak stuff, a work of circumstantial innuendo worthy of Hitchens himself.  

Michael Moore has always been a kind of populist Hitchens, minus the overwrought prose and Oxbridge education, and without the mania for war, death, murder and destruction.  In another life, they should’ve been lovers.  They were perfect for each other, each as hackish as the other in pursuit of political goals. 

But even now, you have to marvel at how Hitchens rallied the troops to the flag.  I don’t exaggerate when I say that US wingnuts were flailing, howling incoherently over Fahrenheit 9/11.  For the first time in three years, they’d utterly lost control of The Message, and all manner of horrible leftist goblins were springing out of the ground to ask dangerous questions about President Bush’s statements, actions and integrity.  

We can immediately dispense with every single one of Hitchens’ complaints about Moore’s honesty.  As we saw yesterday, Hitchens was an expert bullshitter who could and did effortlessly match Moore’s most ludicrous elisions and misdirections. 

“Abject political cowardice”, said the man who spent who knows how many hours defending such glorious paragons of virtue as Ahmad Chalabi and Paul Wolfowitz!  Well, we can at least have a laugh as he tries to de-schmuckify Bush’s toe-curling encounter with The Pet Goat or his infamous “Now watch this drive!” scene, as he ran the War on Terror from the golf course.

Let’s be blunt.  As a depiction of the victims of the Iraq War, Moore’s choice of clips are a million times more representative than Hitchens’ unending war against Saddam and whoever he was calling Genocidal Fascists on any given day.  The lowest, definitely undercounting estimate for civilian deaths in Iraq is in the region of 100,000 and I’d happily place a bet that for every fanatical terrorist whose end Hitchens celebrated, a thousand happy families lost a parent, a sibling or a child, kite or no.

The point of lowest bathos comes when Hitchens tries to explain that, contra Moore’s claim, Iraq did attack Americans.  Iraq started it!

Iraqi ground units shot at American planes patrolling the No-Fly Zone over Iraq!  Well, on and on he goes.  You can imagine what type of film all of these caveats would feature in, what form of documentary Hitch might prefer to see. 

“At no point does Michael Moore make the smallest effort to be objective. At no moment does he pass up the chance of a cheap sneer or a jeer”.

Says Hitchens, the famously objective, well-mannered gentleman*. 

Well anyway, you know the rest.  The wingnut literati all promiscuously linked to Hitchens’ piece, expanded and wanked up the most egregious of his points and soon enough, they steadied the rocking Republican ship.  The monster Moore was repelled, sent wailing and thrashing back into the depths of the sea, and the world made safe for the US government’s insane wars.  President Bush squeaked re-election.  Both his administration and its criminal ineptitude passed into history, leaving the rest of the planet with the Mother of All Economic And Military Fuck-Ups in our laps.

Michael Moore made successful films about American healthcare reform and the injustices of capitalism.  A few years later, a programme of subsidised healthcare was instituted and world capitalism burned its own house down in an orgy of greed and recrimination.  

History, I think, will be kinder to one than it will to the other, Literary Lion or not.

Anyway, let’s leave the last word to Hitchens, since he isn’t here to speak for himself.  

If you leave out absolutely everything that might give your “narrative” a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it, and you don’t even care that one bit of that rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft.

Oh, yes.  Those are words to live by alright, Chris.

—-
A longer version is here

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About the author
Flying Rodent is a regular contributor and blogs more often at: Between the Hammer and the Anvil. He is also on Twitter.
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Reader comments


Hmm, strongly advise reading the longer version here.

http://flyingrodent.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-hitchens-saved-aggressive-american.html

This one doesn’t even make sense to me, and I wrote it.

Slightly surprised by these comments, I think Hitchens was a far, far, far superior journalist than Moore, but I take some of your points from the previous, linked blog which seems to suggest to me that his rhetoric was more suited to Philosophical and religious debates, helping as it did to blow issues wide open, allowing people to think in the space in between his brash empiricism and the metaphysical arguments coming from the other side. As such, I think he was a good mediator of sorts, strangely, preventing religious thought from being able to slowly push it’s away into public politics. He curbed the ability of religious leaders to have a say in public debate unless they laid their beliefs at the door, or at worst, for him to destroy in front of them.
I do agree in a sense that his brashness leaves many people feeling alienated and overall that his political readings were sometimes crude, but broadly I still think he was an excellent agent provacateur, and we can take more from him if we are as brash as he was to his own neuroses and refuse to accept his word merely on the volume with which he spoke it.

Cheers

Lloyd

3. Barrington Womble

Sorry you didn’t agree with the Iraq War, nor did I. I didn’t agree with Hitchens’ defence of it either, but I did recognise it as sincere and intellectually honest. Michael Moore, on the other hand, is a 9/11 Truth crank, a massive hypocrite and probably the most deceitful film-maker working in mainstream cinema. His main achievements have been to lie his way into an old man’s house and disseminate his conspiracy theories to the gullible.

A better quote to end your piece would have been Hitchens’ observation that “polished, sophisticated Europeans” think that “Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they‘ve taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities.”

Anyway, let’s leave the last word to Hitchens, since he isn’t here to speak for himself…

…Oh, yes.  Those are words to live by alright, Chris.

I don’t think you’ve got the hang of the ‘leaving the last word bit’.

I didn’t agree with Hitchens’ defence of it either, but I did recognise it as sincere and intellectually honest.

Uh… http://flyingrodent.blogspot.com/2011/12/not-on-their-own-merits-but-according.html

Michael Moore, on the other hand, is a 9/11 Truth crank, a massive hypocrite and probably the most deceitful film-maker working in mainstream cinema.

Do you, indeed. I think Hitchens and Moore share precisely the same attitude to truth, i.e. that it doesn’t matter shit compared to getting your way. I said so in the post, in fact.

A better quote to end your piece would have been Hitchens’ observation that “polished, sophisticated Europeans”

Well, I’m certainly European. If I ever thought the Americans were stupid and fat, that preconception was erased when I was there by the unending line of tall, toned, beautiful Americans I met.

Those who know me or have read my stuff are well-placed to judge who’s the more vulgar – the Yanks, or me. I’m not a betting man, but I reckon I might just win that one.

6. the a&e charge nurse

The Hitch may have been wrong about Iraq but at least it was an opinion that took over 20 years in the making, having first been to Iraq in the 70’s and later witnessing first hand what Saddam and his crime family were capable of (deeds captured in Makiya’s “Rebublic of fear).

It’s true many died as a result of the American invasion but isn’t it true death had already become a way of life for ordinary people under Saddam’s sphere of influence – 500,000 killed in the Iran/Iraq conflict, 180,000 Kurd deaths, many more perished in the Kuwait invasion.

Hitchens talks about a snuff movie made when Saddam seized power. It begins with the first plenary session of the Ba’ath party central committee (100, or so men) – suddenly the doors are locked and a broken man enters the room and begins to denounce around 50 of the delegates. Once a conspirator is identified guards drag him outside. The fear in the room is such that men begin to crack and weep, rising to their feet to shout hysterical praise, and even love for the cigar chomping supremo – finally those remaining in the room are instructed to kill the other group left huddled outside in the courtyard.

Saddam crossed a line in Hitchen’s opinion and the level of barbarity was such that external intervention was required to curtail it – a variation on the old theme of not standing by while milions suffer terrible oppression, or worse.

As such, I think he was a good mediator of sorts, strangely, preventing religious thought from being able to slowly push it’s away into public politics.

Well, he might have tried but while the audience in his debate with Blair might have heard him demolish every argument Blair made it was clear from the demented look in the ex-PM’s eyes that the voices-in-the-head mob are well ensconced in positions of actual power.

8. the a&e charge nurse

According to Human Rights Watch: “twenty-five years of Ba`th Party rule … murdered or ‘disappeared’ some quarter of a million Iraqis”.

Saddam crossed a line in Hitchen’s opinion…

Quite a lot of dictators in many countries crossed the line, in Hitchens’ opinion. That’s why he was shit hot for all the major western wars of the last twenty years (Beirut ’06 aside) and just choking to export the Iraqi miracle to Iran.

According to Human Rights Watch: “twenty-five years of Ba`th Party rule … murdered or ‘disappeared’ some quarter of a million Iraqis”.

Some figures suggest that the American invasion/occupation/new Iraqi government beat that figure in less than five years. The very lowest estimate – 100% certainly an underestimate – is over 100,000.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, when Hitchens heard these bodycounts, he indulged in a winky-fiddling exercise and pronounced that “some percentage” of the dead were themselves evil murderers. What percentage? He didn’t know or even guess.

I suggest he didn’t really care. If he did, he wouldn’t have waved away the bodycount as “worth it” so readily. A serious accounting might include the possibility that he was wrong about something… And like I say, Hitch was keen to export the experiment to Iran, a nation of circa seventy million people. His predictions of a swift, low-casualty war greeted by exultant Iranians and a flowering democracy were identical to those he made before the invasion of Iraq.

Refusal to face the human cost of your behaviour and a willingness to continue perpetrating acts that have already harmed other human beings is not an indicator of humanitarianism, you know. It’s a strong indicator of a psychopathic personality.

10. the a&e charge nurse

[9] if we take the account provided in ‘Hitch 22’ (in the chapter ‘mesopotamia from both sides’) it seems ludicrous to suggest that Hitchen’s point of view was arrived at using a calculator?
One of the events that particularly affected him was the friendships he had forged visiting the northern kurds in the aftermath of the chemical warfare that was waged against them.

As a matter of fact Hitchens was not especially against Saddam at the outset believing, errantly as it turned out, that a secular ‘moderniser’ would be better for Iraq than the Shah or an Iranian style theocrat.

I can understand why you might label saddam a ‘psychopath’, but applying the same term to a political commentator like Hitchens is pushing the envelope a bit, isn’t it?

wasn’t saddam put into power by the very people that hitch supported? saddam’s crimes are at the door of the Confederation of Imperial America, because the CIA helped him get into power in the first place!

12. THE VOICE of REASON

Hitchen’s hated fake liberals, Left betraying, scum like you lot. Just as much as right wing American Bible wavers.

He hated the apologists for fascist Islam JUST like you lot are, like Galloway and his fetid ilk.

Leave his name out of your rag.

13. flyingrodent

if we take the account provided in ‘Hitch 22? (in the chapter ‘mesopotamia from both sides’) it seems ludicrous to suggest that Hitchen’s point of view was arrived at using a calculator?

You mean, four years later, he’d managed to come up with a formula that made it sound less dismissive? I can’t say I’ve read it, and I’m not choking with enthusiasm to hear his rationalisation.

His initial response to the largest estimates is here http://tinyurl.com/cknf98h and I’m in agreement with Steven Poole’s analysis here http://unspeak.net/some-percentage/

I’m willing to forgive most political commentators and bloggers this kind of casual who-gives-a-fuckery, since we’re talking about a very complex subject. Hitchens, on the other hand, both set himself up and is widely hymned as a consumate humanitarian, noble in thought and deed. So maybe by 2010 he had invented a new and less dipshitted view than his initial response. Should we care if he did? Does it indicate a long, dark night of the soul, or a quest for a half-acceptable excuse?

I can understand why you might label saddam a ‘psychopath’, but applying the same term to a political commentator like Hitchens is pushing the envelope a bit, isn’t it?

Well, Google the clinical definition. “Psychopathy” isn’t a synonym for “murderousness”, it’s a specific diagnosis. It’s a characterised by of lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentrity and deceptiveness.

I’d say that a man who identifies a war as a personal crusade; who then refuses to admit to even minor errors when it turns out to be one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of modern times and then actively demands a repeat would fit the bill. Especially the lack of remorse, egocentricity and deceptiveness parts.

14. flyingrodent

Yeah, I guess that whenever I finally hear the voice of reason, it’ll ANNOUNCE ITSELF in ARBITRARY capitalisation.

Fuck the POINTS UNDER discussion, it’ll whisper. JUST CALL ’em all scum, that’ll LEARN ’em.

I love this place. You seldom get these random drive-bys at blogging backwaters like mine, where some joker crashes roaring through the door, hurls a flurry of kung fu combos and then disappears in a puff of bullshit.

15. So Much For Subtlety

6. the a&e charge nurse

Saddam crossed a line in Hitchen’s opinion and the level of barbarity was such that external intervention was required to curtail it – a variation on the old theme of not standing by while milions suffer terrible oppression, or worse.

Yeah but it is weird. Christopher Hitchens spent a life time defending much worse. When the Khmer Rouge was emptying Phnon Penh which side was he on? Not on the side of the Khmer people that’s for sure. He didn’t stand by while millions suffered terrible oppression or worse. He actively called for it for the vast majority of his life. He just drew the line at Saddam. Why, I don’t know, and it is nice that he had a last minute change of heart. But as long as the Soviet Army had a fighting chance of liberating Western Europe, he opposed all efforts by Western Europe to defend themselves.

There is something odd there. So, again, nice that he had a last minute change of heart. But he never really quite explained why.

11. Daz

wasn’t saddam put into power by the very people that hitch supported? saddam’s crimes are at the door of the Confederation of Imperial America, because the CIA helped him get into power in the first place!

No Saddam was not. Simple. The rest of your post is pig sh!t as is the quality of thinking and research behind it.

@12:

You remind me of those managers who constant refer to themselves as “a people person”. If you have to do that, then you’re most emphatically not.

On-topic: In the same way that Churchill was right about Nazi Germany but horrendously wrong about, say, India, Hitchens was right about religion, but he was self-servingly wrong about most other things.

All of Hitchens’ various jihads against whatever might be his most recent hate-object had two things in common – Hitch mugging for the camera and trousering as much cash as possible. So deeply felt were his principles! Such was his nobility of soul!

Michael Moore’s film tried to imply that Iraq under Saddam was a safe place full of fundfairs.

In one of his books, he also presented a one-sided view of the Northern Ireland conflict where the Republicans were the “goodies” who’d moved on and the Unionists the “baddies” full of bigoted drum bangers. No condemnation of the murders of civilians committed by the IRA.

What does Christopher Hitchens being “portly” have to do with anything?

Moore of course redefines the whole idea of ‘portliness’.

“But as long as the Soviet Army had a fighting chance of liberating Western Europe, he opposed all efforts by Western Europe to defend themselves.”

They never had either the chance or the intention.

Say what you will about Michael Moore, he was 100% bang on right about Iraq and that he told the truth to an American society that really didn’t want to hear it is to his eternal credit.

Hitchen’s hated fake liberals, Left betraying, scum like you lot. Just as much as right wing American Bible wavers.

He hated the apologists for fascist Islam JUST like you lot are, like Galloway and his fetid ilk.

Leave his name out of your
Dear me I don’t think he would have liked you.

SFMS
As for the Kymer rouge, Mrs T and her government certainly prefered them to commies in viet.
For all his faults, and he had many, he was quite consistent and is one of the few journos who can be described as a maverick .
I certainly prefer him to the Thatcherite Govites like Nick Cohen or Martin Bright and the tory party clones at Harrys place. At least Hitch admitted he had drifted to the conservative right.

Moore of course redefines the whole idea of ‘portliness’
And you Chris, i assume your called Chris, you did mention it an earlier post, are a slim job.
Toodle pip

Mrs T and the boys
In the Sunday Telegraph, Simon O’Dwyer-Russell, revealed that the SAS was training the Pol Pot-led force.
In wonder if they will be invited to her funeral ?

24. flyingrodent

Michael Moore’s film tried to imply that Iraq under Saddam was a safe place full of fundfairs.

Yes, I realise that many people believe that this is a devastating zinger, proving in a single sentence that… whatever.

Oh, Hell and damnation, when Moore showed a brief clip of pre-war Iraq, he picked footage of civilians enjoying themselves! Why couldn’t he have picked one of a man being shot in the face, or of Saddam mass-murdering people in the streets? That would’ve been much more accurate.

Well, I disagree. Moore’s footage from Iraq was approx. ten seconds of women and children playing. What you saw in that clip was ten seconds more footage of ordinary Iraqis than was shown on almost all news channels before the war. Further, in terms of the casualties of the conflict, those civilians represent a massive, overwhelming majority. If our invasion was nemesis for the Hussein regime, it was also a catastrophe for those women and kids.

It’s Hitchens – who was entirely forthright in using and abusing Iraqi civilians to back up his gung-ho arguments – who has the war arse-backwards. He spent thousands of hours waxing lyrical on the need to invade and then occupy Iraq to fight Fascists. How many of Hitchens’ fascists were being killed on a day-to-day basis, compared to innocent punters minding their own business? Fuck him, if he wanted to run such an obvious and cheap for-me-but-not-for-thee double-standard.

If Hitch found that one clip that offensive, then the hypocritical old goat could’ve stuck it up his bollocks. If you’re so heavily in agreement, then please feel free to take similar action.

he also presented a one-sided view of the Northern Ireland

Oh, say it ain’t so! My hero Michael Moore, whose work I described in such reverential, saintly terms in the post, made a bullshit generalisation?!!? Why, this changes everything!

Quick, somebody call the PCC!

What does Christopher Hitchens being “portly” have to do with anything?

More or less everyone – friend and foe – who has talked about Hitchens recently has mentioned his appearance and his bevvy-loving ways. I think that, having just written two very long, negative pieces on Hitchens in which I resisted the urge to attack his personal appearance and habits, I can be forgiven a single adjective inserted for comedy purposes.

Hitchens was right about religion

Puh-lease–Hitchens’ worst writing was on religion.

For me the interesting thing about Hitchens is how he exacerbates the paradoxes of democratic liberalism and liberal internationalism–the ruling ideologies of the day.

Before I switched to econ I studied literature and recall a concept in Russian formalist theory called “obnazenie priema”–laying bare the device. Hitchens has a similar function.

For example, it doesn’t seem obvious to me why, from a standard modern liberal point of view, it’s a bad thing to overthrow tyrants and install democratic governments in their stead. Aren’t tyrants bad? Isn’t democracy good? I mean, I thought that’s what WWII was all about.

Not sure I understand why you, and others here, feel the need to decide between the two. They both do/did good and bad things but end up, broadly speaking, on the side of the argument opposed to totalitarian bastards of all colours and stripes. I couldn’t give a flying fuck which one was ‘more left’, if that’s what you’re trying to establish.

Also, I totally disagreed with Hitchens on Iraq, but didn’t in any way feel betrayed by him, as some supposedly did. A man is allowed whatever opinion he likes, and if I disagree with it, it’s the opinion I disagree with, not necessarily the man. For example, I can’t be sure but I think I once heard Michael Gove say something that didn’t make me want him to die in a fire within minutes, but that hardly makes me a, what, Govian?

For example, it doesn’t seem obvious to me why, from a standard modern liberal point of view, it’s a bad thing to overthrow tyrants and install democratic governments in their stead. Aren’t tyrants bad? Isn’t democracy good? I mean, I thought that’s what WWII was all about.

I’ve seen some mendacious gross simplifications in my time, but that one takes the biscuit.

Ah, the ad hominem: first port of call for the reasonable in debate.

BTW, Cylux–you may need to fiddle with the reception on your irony detector.

@30 More likely I’ll need to get my biscuit back, I just realised that was pretty much Hitchen’s argument over the past decade.

Exactly.

It’s interesting, though–isn’t it? It is to me, anyway. I think that’s one of the reasons why the debate is so rancorous (Hitchens is always either praised or attacked in these obituary type pieces)–i.e., because it’s difficult to resolve from within the shared framework people that rely on to provide guidance in these matters.

“Exactly.”

Actually, I want to qualify that. I think that the interventionist argument is stronger and more persuasive than my glib one line dismissal might suggest. Which is why otherwise smart people believe it and why it’s so controversial.

What are you, trying to be the next Galloway? (of whom: http://blogs.dailyrecord.co.uk/georgegalloway/2011/12/lets-just-hope-god-is-merciful-chris.html) – busy pissing on the grave of one of the most intelligent denizens of the late 20th century left because he had the temerity to support the Iraq war? He now becomes an “expert bullshitter”, someone who “rescued the American People from reality”, “saves the day for the Republican Party” and – worst of all – was a bit porky too.

I wouldn’t necessarily mind, but the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were – are – right. Liberating millions of people from theocratic barbarism and genocidal dictatorship is undoubtedly the right thing to do. It just happened to be a right-wing Republican President who did it, and that’s largely what the bitter, vicious left hate.

35. flyingrodent

…busy pissing on the grave of one of the most intelligent denizens of the late 20th century left because he had the temerity to support the Iraq war?

As I said elsewhere, this is a bit like saying that lots of people dislike Alex Ferguson because he’s been so successful – the basic point is true, but it omits certain very relevant details of Sir Alex’s character and behaviour…

http://flyingrodent.blogspot.com/2011/12/not-on-their-own-merits-but-according.html

36. flyingrodent

Liberating millions of people from theocratic barbarism and genocidal dictatorship is undoubtedly the right thing to do.

This is fun, too. Sharp-eyed readers will note that we have, intentionally or not, liberated hundreds of thousands of people from their lives; that the Taliban remain obstinately undefeated; that Iraq is one political crisis away from another full-blown civil war and that Al Maliki’s government has long since enthusiastically invested in the imprisoning/shooting citizens for dissent business. It really is utterly incredible that it’s still necessary to point this out to people, but the clock didn’t stop in 2003.

No wonder some folk were so keen on Hitch – one stroke of a pen, and all of these fiendishly difficult military, political and logistical problems vanished in a puff of righteousness. Oh, you think occupying Iraq was a bad idea because it killed tens of thousands of people, cost a bajillion dollars and left the country teetering on the edge of fresh catastrophe, do you? You, sir, are a supporter of genocidal dictators!

Let’s see if we can find a Hollywood analogy here…

Carter J. Burke: Okay, look. What if that ship didn’t even exist, huh? Did you ever think about that? I didn’t know! So now, if I went in and made a major security issue out of it, everybody steps in. Administration steps in, and there are no exclusive rights for anybody; nobody wins. So I made a decision and it was… wrong. It was a bad call, Ripley, it was a bad call

Ellen Ripley: Bad call? [Ripley grabs Burke by his vest, shoves him against a wall] These people are dead, Burke! Don’t you have any idea what you have done here?

…If Hitchens were Burke, he’d have turned right around and accused Sigourney Weaver of supporting the aliens or some similar bullshit at that point.

37. the a&e charge nurse

[36] “No wonder some folk were so keen on Hitch – one stroke of a pen, and all of these fiendishly difficult military, political and logistical problems vanished in a puff of righteousness” – I think you’ll find people like Hitch, not because he ever claimed to be right all the time but because he was an erudite and extremely well read commentator.

You seem to have taken an absolute position on Iraq, fine, but Hitchens entire output cannot be judged by this single issue (even Tariq Ali made a point of saying this before their head to head debate on Iraq)?
I’ve yet to find a youtube clip, article, or book were Hitchens is not at least persuasive, even if you still end up arriving at an entirely different point of view.
The world is a less colourful place when we lose commentators with the skills to present important ideas in such an entertaining way – put simply Hitchens could not have received so many accolades over such a long period of time if he was just a one trick pony?

38. So Much For Subtlety

20. Chris

They never had either the chance or the intention.

You’re entitled to your own opinions Chris, but you are not entitled to your own facts. If not for the American nuclear deterrent, we would all be learning Russian in school. Because that was the sole purpose of the Soviet Army – liberation.

Say what you will about Michael Moore, he was 100% bang on right about Iraq and that he told the truth to an American society that really didn’t want to hear it is to his eternal credit.

Bang on right in what sense? In the sense he was a lying sack of propaganda?

21. Angry dad

As for the Kymer rouge, Mrs T and her government certainly prefered them to commies in viet.

I have no idea if she did or not. But if she did, it did not manifest itself in any shape or form. Given Britain has never lifted a finger to help the Khmer Rouge. Why is it the Left relies so much on lies these days? I can remember a more sane Left that actually had principles. Why do they only have blood libels left?

For all his faults, and he had many, he was quite consistent and is one of the few journos who can be described as a maverick .

That is hardly fair. The British Union of Fascists had a newspaper and lots of people who wrote for that could also be described as consistent and mavericks. In the same sense as Hitchens – being opposed to democracy and human rights for pretty much their entire lives. Hitchens had a last minute conversion, which is nice, but it does not change the fact he was little better.

37. the a&e charge nurse

Hitchens entire output cannot be judged by this single issue (even Tariq Ali made a point of saying this before their head to head debate on Iraq)?

I agree, but it is an odd thing to say. After all, most people, at the risk of breaking Godwin’s law, would say that Oswald Mosely’s entire output could be judged on one or two kind of important issues. I agree, of course, because it is not one issue that Hitchens should be judged on, but all the others. In full knowledge of what Communism was, he supported it for everyone else. No matter how many people were murdered.

39. the a&e charge nurse

[38] “In full knowledge of what Communism was, he supported it for everyone else”, hang on SMFS, you say the Hitch was a commie (do you mean marxist?) while FR has him down as a neo-con – you can’t both be right, can you?

40. the a&e charge nurse

[13] “You mean, four years later” – no (see 6 ) – as I say, Hitchen’s beliefs about Iraq were developed over a 20 year period, informed in part, by friends and colleagues who had been murdered by saddam (admittedly just a tiny quotient in the orgy of deaths unleashed by the ba’athist regime – a figure close to a million once we factor in the various wars before the American invasion).

It’s as if you are suggesting that Hitchens just woke one morning and decided that a mindless bloodbath in Iraq would be a nice little adventure for the neo-cons, an argument so ludicrous I can’t even be bothered to refute it.

I think your understanding of Hitchens support for the invasion (which I strongly disagreed with, by the way) is on par with your understanding of what a psychopath is – Hitchens has been criticised by many people (as one might expect if you take on the likes of Kissenger or Mother Theresa) but apart from you I have never heard anybody refer to him as a psychopath before.

Look it’s very simple – the Hitch never claimed to be a saint, he never claimed to be right about everything, if he had an opinion about something he would be open and explicit about his reasoning, and would be willing to debate those who had a different point of view (see the Iraq debates with Tariq Ali and George Galloway).

Hitchens had the capacity to make people re-evaluate some of their strongest held beliefs – that is a great quality, surely?

41. the a&e charge nurse
42. flyingrodent

Hitchens entire output cannot be judged by this single issue

I’m not trying and have never tried to judge Hitch’s entire output on this single issue. As I say in the piece I’ve linked to twice, I’m not qualified to judge his career. On the other hand, I’m very well-placed to judge his Iraq writing, since I read most of it over the years and I have a good memory for his wackier efforts.

It’s as if you are suggesting that Hitchens just woke one morning and decided that a mindless bloodbath in Iraq would be a nice little adventure for the neo-cons…

I’m suggesting that he decided it was 100% correct in all respects, and that he fought like a cornered badger against any and every implication that any aspect of it – the motivation, the justification, the conduct, the outcome – was in the slightest fucked-up or counter-productive. He continued to flog the most retarded of justifications long after the Bush administration had backed away from them as lost causes. He was a remorseless bullshitter who would rather have eaten a bowl of dicks every day for a decade than admit to the slightest error. That behaviour is rightly called “Pig-headed denial” and not “Principled advocacy”.

He declared the war right and just and refused to accept the slightest deviation. Even mild modification in the face of countervailing evidence would’ve made him seem a thousand times more sane and principled. His refusal to budge an inch made him look depraved and clownish; his advocacy for ever-greater violence, which was his solution to every setback, made him look like a lunatic.

All of this was his fault, and his alone. If history discards all of his other work and remembers him as a ridiculous figure for his Iraq advocacy, which it certainly should, he had only himself to blame. I can think of few writers who wrote themselves into a corner with as much enthusiasm and as little caution or regret.

Hitchens had the capacity to make people re-evaluate some of their strongest held beliefs – that is a great quality, surely?

That would depend entirely on the level of truth in his analysis. Encouraging people towards grievous errors, for instance, isn’t my idea of a public service.

I think your understanding of Hitchens support for the invasion… is on par with your understanding of what a psychopath is…

Well, feel free to correct me.

43. the a&e charge nurse

[42] “On the other hand, I’m very well-placed to judge his Iraq writing, since I read most of it over the years and I have a good memory for his wackier efforts” – this covers years of output.

Which observation is emblematic of all that is wrong with Hitchen’s assessment of the need for military intervention in Iraq – I mean can you point to one utterance that is factually incorrect, for example.

Given that he is a psychopath and neo-con I assume there must be a vast resevoir of gaff’s to draw on?
I must admit admit though whenever I have ever seen the Hitch go head to head with opponents he is seldom found wanting when using facts, or knowledge to back up his line of reasoning

@39 They can, Hitch was a trot before he switched to neo-conservatism.

45. the a&e charge nurse

“I’m suggesting that he (Hitch) decided it was 100% correct in all respects”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKYfEHCjucg&feature=related

46. So Much For Subtlety

39. the a&e charge nurse

you say the Hitch was a commie (do you mean marxist?) while FR has him down as a neo-con – you can’t both be right, can you?

People change. Hitchens did. He spent a life time on the Far Left before becoming a neo-Con. It is not uncommon. Most neo-Cons were, like Hitchens, Trots of one sort or another before moving to the Right. Neo-Con is often used on the Left as a sort of euphemism for “Jew” because, well, so many of them (but not Hitchens) are. As such they tended to be Marxist-Leninists in the 1960s before moving rightwards. For most of them, the Left’s embrace of Islamists and anti-Semitism seems to be the defining issue. Not for Hitchens I expect but who knows.

As for the Kymer rouge, Mrs T and her government certainly prefered them to commies in viet.

I have no idea if she did or not. But if she did, it did not manifest itself in any shape or form. Given Britain has never lifted a finger to help the Khmer Rouge.
They trained the Kymer regime in the use of landmines

Why is it the Left relies so much on lies these days?
There not lies , no different form the KGB and labour slurs
I can remember a more sane Left that actually had principles. Why do they only have blood libels left?
You don’t believe that statement
Who said I was left.
Actually if you read my posts I have never supported the left.
I believe in the maxim a plague on both your houses. Most political fanatics like your self, (left or right) put the cause first.

For all his faults, and he had many, he was quite consistent and is one of the few journos who can be described as a maverick .

That is hardly fair. The British Union of Fascists had a newspaper and lots of people who wrote for that could also be described as consistent and mavericks. In the same sense as Hitchens – being opposed to democracy and human rights for pretty much their entire lives. Hitchens had a last minute conversion, which is nice, but it does not change the fact he was little better.
Yes most for your Daily Mail
Hurrah for Mr Hitler and all that.
You have supported regimes in your comments that have been un democratic and killed and tortured innocent people.
So cut the holier than thou attitude

SFMS
What I dislike about you, XXX and Tim J is not the fact that you’re a bunch of right wing bigots, it is the certainty, there is no doubt, no debate. The lefties in the UK, I quite like because they all argue, hence they make crap governments. Many of them turn to the right because of this lack of doubt. You have no doubt. A true zealot.
As for my politics, I haven’t voted since 1979. I have always admired the great Peter Cook, a man not of the left but he hated Thatcher and her trolls (which you are one) because of their certainty.
P.S. Although he cannot stand me I do quite like watchman, because there is a little doubt their in his soul

Neo-Con is often used on the Left as a sort of euphemism for “Jew” because, well, so many of them (but not Hitchens) are.

You are aware I take it, that Hitchens found out in 1987 that he is in fact Jewish. Though he described himself as a non-Jewish Jew.

Although your attempt to find anti-Semitism where it isn’t present is still very mendacious, given that Neo-Conservativism is an actual political ideology. Unless you will also be willing to venture that critics of Marxist-Leninism are equally anti-Semitic in their motivations, given that, according to you Marxist-Leninists are apparently the main source of Neo-Conservatives…

50. the a&e charge nurse

The Hitch and Devotchka (this is how it ends)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-kTFIO3wkA

51. So Much For Subtlety

47. Angry dad

They trained the Kymer regime in the use of landmines

No they did not. And learn to spell Khmer.

There not lies , no different form the KGB and labour slurs

I would probably object to that if I had a clue what you are trying to say.

You don’t believe that statement

Actually I do but it is interesting to see you think you can read minds.

Yes most for your Daily Mail
Hurrah for Mr Hitler and all that.

The Daily Mail had a short period when it was willing to see some good in the Nazi regime. Bad for them. So what? It doesn’t change a thing. It is not merely irrelevant, it is you desperately trying to change the subject as I have never heard anyone defend the Daily Mail.

Angry dad

What I dislike about you, XXX and Tim J is not the fact that you’re a bunch of right wing bigots, it is the certainty, there is no doubt, no debate. The lefties in the UK, I quite like because they all argue, hence they make crap governments. Many of them turn to the right because of this lack of doubt. You have no doubt. A true zealot.

It is not as if you are in any position to make any judgement on, well, anything. You have no idea what I or anyone else thinks. Nor are you seemingly capable of understanding. All you are is an angry man on the internet. Who seems to be intent on wasting my time right now. Do you have anything relevant to say?

Cylux

You are aware I take it, that Hitchens found out in 1987 that he is in fact Jewish. Though he described himself as a non-Jewish Jew.

No I am not. Not really interesting though.

Although your attempt to find anti-Semitism where it isn’t present is still very mendacious, given that Neo-Conservativism is an actual political ideology.

I did not say their use was accurate. Nor is it hard to find anti-Semitism on the Left. I don’t need to search for it where it isn’t because it is.

Unless you will also be willing to venture that critics of Marxist-Leninism are equally anti-Semitic in their motivations, given that, according to you Marxist-Leninists are apparently the main source of Neo-Conservatives…

There are certainly anti-Semitic anti-Marxists. But not all of them. You have a point here but I am not sure what it is.

This all seems rather unnecessary.
Hitchens was a gifted wordsmith who you disagreed with. It would be easy to say that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but a) Hitch wouldn’t care b) he did it all the time.

But there is a level of venom present in your article which I find baffling. I believe you would agree that Michael Moore is somewhat overrated as a film-maker, and that parts of Fahrenheit 9/11 pander to the tinfoil milliners amongst us. Likewise, lets not soft soap the horrific nature of Saddam’s regime. The BBC4 documentary on Amnesty this year was fascinating in pointing out that unlike in other countries, Amnesty couldn’t even mention the names of their political prisoners, as it would have caused retalliation against their entire family.

Yes, the Iraq war may have been a mistake, (although I would argue that like the French Revolution, it is too soon to tell). Argue that it was woefully underplanned, that it was capricious with the lives of Iraqi civilians and that it plunged a country into war and chaos. Those are all perfectly good grounds to critique the Iraq war.

By all means, argue it out. Hitchen’s held the belief that war was preferable to Saddam’s rule, you seem to hold the belief that war is the worst thing and is always wrong. Both are valid opinions, but I’d much rather you attacked the argument rather than the man.

53. the a&e charge nurse

[53] “But there is a level of venom present in your article which I find baffling” – there is an absence of logic, or certainly substance which is equally baffling.

The explanation for Rodent’s venom against the internationalist left is that he’s been proved wrong, time and again, in his Lindbergist/isolationist support for tyrants. He opposed, for instance, NATO’s support for the Libyan rebels. He won’t tell you what his personal politics are…but think Lindberg.

Both are valid opinions, but I’d much rather you attacked the argument rather than the man.

Hitchens, of course, was scrupulous in avoiding ad hominem. And only a fucking fat slag would claim otherwise.

He won’t tell you what his personal politics are…but think Lindberg.

8/9 on the “spelling Lindbergh’s name” test, Jim.

@55 – You’ll notice that I remarked on this, Hitchens wouldn’t have been bothered because he loved a good ad-hominem, and didn’t care about insulting the dead – My personal favourite is his description of Falwell – “if you gave him an enema you could bury him in a matchbox”.

But there is something quite weird about Rodent’s entire article. An obsession with assassinating the character of a political commentator years after the event – it just feels like Rodent is imbuing this entire argument and issue with more significance than it deserves.

Hitch had strong opinions, and enjoyed the process and the cut and thrust of vigorous debate. It seems that Rodent is affronted that Hitch held different views and put them across in an effective way. (although I think that his impact on popular opinion is limited). Hitch didn’t ‘save wingnuttery’, wingnuttery was doing fine without him, and will continue fine without him.

This whole piece might be better entitled – “The long memory of the left – never forgive never forget”.

So Hitchens took a position against you, big deal, he took positions against a lot of people.

57. flyingrodent

it just feels like Rodent is imbuing this entire argument and issue with more significance than it deserves.

Ach, no doubt. I chuck it out there as a character piece, to evoke a time and place. That’s why there’s a long reminiscence on my visit to the US in it.

I wrote a long piece explaining why so many people think ill of Hitchens http://tinyurl.com/ce855j9 which I’ve linked twice already. Summary – It’s not because he supported the war. Lots of people supported the war but few go as much stick as Hitchens did and does. There’s surely a reason for that.

As much as CH’s buddies may wish to paint him as a truth-seeking intellectual crusader, they’ll struggle. His Iraq work, which took up most of his final decade, was too full of howling errors and self-serving misrepresentations for that. Principled truth-seekers just don’t go in for hackery with that much enthusiasm.

Hitch didn’t ‘save wingnuttery’, wingnuttery was doing fine without him, and will continue fine without him.

Clearly not. They’d have come up with their own excuses without Hitchens.

Still, think of this as less of an OMG All-Encompassing Smackdown Of Biblical Proportions, a bit more like I Love 2004 – Remember that time Hitchens acted like Hitchens did for the entire decade?

He spent most of the 2000s defending his wars from all attacks, regardless of whether those attacks were accurate or not. If that meant inventing bullshit rationalisations to protect the Bush administration from its foes, so be it – hence, his endless, hilarious defences on how those weapons programmes might exist, possibly, if you look really hard… Or his pieces bravely shielding Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz and Ahmad Chalabi, when each got caught with his fingers in the till.

“The long memory of the left – never forgive never forget”.

There’s probably an element of truth in that, although I’d say I have an equally long memory for everything from music to football.

Nonetheless, it’s not my fault if I can recall all those porkies Hitchens pimped as fact; all those times he was caught out by embarrassingly-obvious fraudsters or all those times he told us to believe his pisspoor rhetorical conjobs, rather than the evidence of our lying eyes.

If Hitchens has acquired a reputation as a stellar bullshitter, he got it without my assistance. I don’t know what you’d call the fallacy of “Foolishly allowing proven dodgers the benefit of the doubt”, but it’s not one I’m keen on falling for.

Denham – He won’t tell you what his personal politics are…but think Lindberg.

It’s a glowing tribute to the style of politics that Hitch and his buddies foisted on the world that there are still people who believe “You love the Nazis, you Nazi” is a devastating, universal comeback.

58. the a&e charge nurse

[57] the fundamental problem with the piece, leaving aside hysterical put downs, is the lack of evidence to back up such a strident point of view (other than you repeatedly saying Hitchens was wrong).

Your were/are anti-invasion, Hitchens wasn’t – ultimately either position can be argued depending on your interpretation, or beliefs about the known facts (as much as these things can really be known).

But I’m more interested in the lies Hitchens is supposed to have told about Iraq – if you can cite a few important examples we might be able to debate the specifics of what was said rather than the vague and unsubstantiated generalities that bedevil your assessment of why Hitchens might have arrived at a pro-invasion stance?

Hitchens considered himself a sort of Orwell de nos jours

Can you spot which quote is Orwell’s and which Hitchens?

“…..those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”.

“As late as October 1937 the New Statesman was treating us to tales of Fascist barricades made of the bodies of living children (a most unhandy thing to make barricades with), and Mr Arthur Bryant was declaring that ‘the sawing-off of a Conservative tradesman’s legs’ was ‘a commonplace’ in Loyalist Spain.

The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.”

60. flyingrodent

I’m more interested in the lies Hitchens is supposed to have told about Iraq – if you can cite a few important examples we might be able to debate the specifics of what was said…

Well, I wrote two posts about Hitchens – the first was a general rundown of his behaviour before and during the Iraq war, detailing some of his major errors and and misrepresentations. That’s the one that lays out my basic reasons for believing that Hitchens was a serial bullshitter on the topic.

I’ve linked to it three times in this thread already and have reiterated many of the points, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t rephrase it yet again for your convenience.

The second was a Hey, anyone remember this incident? Hitchens spent a lot of time doing this kind of thing, didn’t he? post, which is the one at the top of the page. For reasons known only to themselves, LibCon chose to reprint the latter, rather than the former. If I had to pick, it’d have been the Iraq one I’d have chosen for the major-traffic website.

Your were/are anti-invasion, Hitchens wasn’t – ultimately either position can be argued depending on your interpretation, or beliefs about the known facts.

I don’t mean to appear pedantic here, but it seems to me that there’s a big old difference between enthusiastically propagandising for a war that killed maybe a million people, drove millions more into exile, destroyed vast swathes of infrastructure and set off a chain of violence and reprisal that may well continue for decades, and… Not.

I realise that it’s now commonplace to say Ooops, our error there, anyone could’ve accidentally destroyed millions of lives for no sane reason whatsoever. Nonetheless, I do have to point out that causing that level of slaughter and disorder really is a Big Deal, one that can’t be casually dicked off by saying Well, everybody made mistakes, didn’t they?

61. the a&e charge nurse

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