Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Word I'd Never Think To Use About Christopher Hitchens

When two passenger jets were hijacked and flown in to the World Trade Center, a third hijacked and crashed in to the Pentagon, and a fourth brought down over central Pennsylvania in circumstances we will never understand or learn about completely, Christopher Hitchens, already having gone off the left-wing reservation over advocacy for a more forceful approach to Iraq (he was a long-time advocate for the rights of the Kurdish ethnic minority in the north), as well as a visceral distaste for President Bill Clinton (his book on the former President was entitled No One Left to Lie To, and Hitch came close to using the same kind of language George Will used in describing the President's history of peccadilloes with women - scumbag and rapist). He still had a column in The Nation, that aged and dogged flagship of respectable leftyism.

After a couple weeks going back and forth with the editors due to their advocacy for a more nuanced approach to those who had attacked the United States so brutally, he quit. This was not the time to go all wimpy, trying to understand an enemy who would commit murder on such a vast scale. The enemy was not just some terrorist organization who was enraged by US policies in the Middle East and Central Asia. No, this enemy was the enemy of western civilization. It was not just about the psychosis that could envision and plan and then carry out such a horrific act. It was an attempt to tear out, root and branch, all the values that make the West the West - tolerance and the rule of law; secular legal culture of sectarian tribalsim; an open, socialized political economy versus the strangelhold of any bureaucratic dictatorship, public or private.

It was at this point that Hitchens went whole hog. He threw in his lot with the Bush Administration, hook, line and sinker. He repudiated any attempt to address and redress what occurred on September 11, 2001 through a more nuanced approach, and set his sights on killing them all, and, since he doesn't believe in God, letting them rot.

Fast forward nine years, and he is writing this piece in Vanity Fair.
A large, volatile constituency has been created that believes darkly in betrayal and conspiracy. A mass “literature” has been disseminated, to push the mad ideas of exploded crackpots and bigots. It would be no surprise if those who now adore Beck and his acolytes were to call them sellouts and traitors a few years from now. But, alas, they would not be the only victims of the poisonous propaganda that’s been uncorked. Some of the gun brandishing next time might be for real. There was no need for this offense to come, but woe all the same to those by whom it came, and woe above all to those who whitewashed and rationalized it.
In a remarkable, short piece, Hitchens evinces not a shred of self-awareness in his pronouncement of "woe" upon those who brought us to this historical moment when Tea Party candidates can question the nationality of the President, the reality of global warming, and insist on the Sacredness of the Constitution. For the past decade, Hitch has palled around with some of these very same people. People who, as he points out early in the article, really believed the Clinton's had murdered Vince Foster. People who saw in the our military response to the terrorist attacks the main chance to push through economically destabilizing tax cuts (during a "time of war" no less!!), as well as an opportunity to enforce American military hegemony once and for all. Hitchens spent years defending pretty much anything the Bush Administration did, even coming out and endorsing Bush over John Kerry in 2004, in the wake of the revelations regarding torture, Abu Graib, and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which should have been our focus all along.

Full confession. I have exactly one book by Hitch. It is entitled The Trial of Henry Kissinger. It is a slim volume, yet spells out in vivid detail, the may ways the former Secretary of State has violated both domestic American and international law, and is complicit in or directly responsible for, many crimes against humanity, stretching from Southeast Asia and Chile and the Condor nations to Greece and Cyprus.

The same man who wrote this persuasive book, however, allowed his rage and fear to overwhelm what one thought was his good sense, and threw his entire considerable rhetorical skills behind a project whose revealed crimes make Kissinger look like an amateur. These same folks who Hitchens defended as the real defenders of western values of tolerance and secular openness were nothing of the kind; theocrats, small-minded thugs and anti-Muslim bigots, their spawn is the Tea Party Hitchens now sees as a very real threat to our Republic. That he cannot see his own complicity in this historical turn of events is surprising.

I never would have thought Hitch was immune to self-awareness.

Virtual Tin Cup

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