December 10, 2003

View from the Radical Center

Christopher Hitchens is interviewed by Jamie Glazov in Front Page Magazine, and he goes after both the right and the left with brass knuckles. These are long exerpts, but the interview itself is quite long, and as usual with the Hitch, it’s worth it to read the whole thing.

First, the left:

As to the “Left” I’ll say briefly why this was the finish for me. Here is American society, attacked under open skies in broad daylight by the most reactionary and vicious force in the contemporary world, a force which treats Afghans and Algerians and Egyptians far worse than it has yet been able to treat us. The vaunted CIA and FBI are asleep, at best. The working-class heroes move, without orders and at risk to their lives, to fill the moral and political vacuum. The moral idiots, meanwhile, like Falwell and Robertson and Rabbi Lapin, announce that this clerical aggression is a punishment for our secularism. And the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, hitherto considered allies on our “national security” calculus, prove to be the most friendly to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Here was a time for the Left to demand a top-to-bottom house-cleaning of the state and of our covert alliances, a full inquiry into the origins of the defeat, and a resolute declaration in favor of a fight to the end for secular and humanist values: a fight which would make friends of the democratic and secular forces in the Muslim world. And instead, the near-majority of “Left” intellectuals started sounding like Falwell, and bleating that the main problem was Bush’s legitimacy. So I don’t even muster a hollow laugh when this pathetic faction says that I, and not they, are in bed with the forces of reaction.

Then the right:
FP: You took many anti-American positions during the Cold War. Do you regret any of them? Now that you look back, were you wrong in any way? And if you do not think you were wrong, how is that reconcilable with your pro-American positions today in the War on Terror, Iraq, etc? Why is it right to defend freedom in the face of Saddam and Osama, but not in the face of Soviet totalitarianism?

Hitchens: Again, I don’t quite share the grammar of your question, and I dispute the right of conservatives to be automatically complacent on these points. My own Marxist group took a consistently anti-Moscow line throughout the “Cold War”, and was firm in its belief that that Soviet Union and its European empire could not last. Very few people believed that this was the case: the best known anti-Communist to advance the proposition was the great Robert Conquest, but he himself insists that part of the credit for such prescience goes to Orwell. More recently, a very exact prefiguration of the collapse of the USSR was offered by two German Marxists, one of them from the West (Hans Magnus Enzensberger) and one from the East (Rudolf Bahro, the accuracy of whose prediction was almost uncanny). I have never met an American conservative who has even heard of, let alone read, either of these authors.

Reasonably certain in the view that the official enemy was being over-estimated (as it famously was by the CIA, for example, until at least 1990) and that it would be eclipsed, I also believed that the conflict was never worth even the risk of a nuclear war. I was right about that. And I detested the way that “Cold War” rhetoric was used to justify things, like the salvage of French colonialism in Indochina or the prolonging of white rule in Southern Africa, which were deservedly doomed in the first place and which in their origins predated the Bolshevik Revolution. I was right about that, too.

[T]here is no doubt that the United States imposed a dictatorship, with a fascist ideology, on Greece (a NATO member and member of the Council of Europe) in 1967. This was done simply in order that the wrong party not win the upcoming elections. The result was a disastrous war in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the stifling of liberty in Greece. One could go on - I have never seen anyone argue that the mass murder in East Timor, for example, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall. You might want to took at my little book on Henry Kissinger, which shows what much more conservative historians have elsewhere established - that during the Nixon years the USA was a rogue state.

So don’t be so goddam cocky about who was, or was not “pro-American”. Having changed my own mind after the end of the first “Gulf War”, I had at least as many arguments to conduct with Washington’s right wing as I did with the soft or the dogmatic left, and would not wish this any other way.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2003 01:58 PM
Comments

I don't get it. He's against terrorism, but he admires Trotsky. Trotsky was a terrorist.

Posted by: Jim at December 10, 2003 03:04 PM

Jim,

Read the entire interview and you might get it, as you say, a bit more. Trotsky was a terrorist, yes, but he was a lot more than that. He was also, as Robert Conquest might put it, a premature anti-Stalinist.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2003 03:07 PM

Do you think Trotsky objected to Stalinism on moral grounds or on tactical grounds?

Posted by: Jim at December 10, 2003 04:47 PM

Do you think Trotsky objected to Stalinism on moral grounds or on tactical grounds?

I don't know Trotsky well enough to answer that question with authority, but I am reasonably sure he opposed Stalin on moral grounds. I am absolutely certain that Trotskyists opposed Stalin on moral grounds. That's what Trotskyism was ultimately all about, after all.

Trotsky was a complicated man, and his place in history is more honorable than many on the right will allow.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2003 05:04 PM

Somewhere approximately midway between the left wing and the right wing, of course, is where you'll find the beast's brains.

Welcome back.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at December 10, 2003 08:32 PM

Trotskyists opposed Stalin on moral grounds. That's what Trotskyism was ultimately all about, after all.

That's not all. It was about hoping the poor killed the rich.

Suppose there was a Nazi who bravely spoke out against Hitler's authoritarian bullying tactics within the Nazi party, advocating a grassroots Nazism instead. Does it make sense to lionize such a Nazi? Should we praise his anti-authoritarianism? He just thinks grassroots is a faster way to kill Jews, after all, and, regarding Hitler's top-down way of killing them, is, to borrow Hitchens's phrase, "firm in its belief that that...empire could not last." Again, should we praise his anti-authoritarianism? Both he and Trotsky want my family killed. Their anti-authoritarianism is an expedient to this end.

Posted by: Jim at December 10, 2003 08:58 PM

Communism is an evil idealogy. Doesn't matter how its practiced, or who practiced it. The same could be said for Nazism, and Islamism. Whether or not Trotsky would have killed as many people as Stalin is a moot point, numbers are just statistics, as Stalin once said.

Posted by: FH at December 10, 2003 09:13 PM

FH is quite correct. And two things about statism (which, right or left, is what this is) stand out clearly:

1. Those in power will immediately set themselves up as exceptions to their own rules--doctrine or procedural--for self aggrandizement and patronage. Think Nomenclatura.

2. There is always someone comparatively less fastidious to coopt the apparatus. That's how Kerensky got Lenin/Trotsky, who got Stalin and how Roehm and Strasser got Hitler.

Posted by: Stephen at December 10, 2003 09:54 PM

Welcome home Michael.

The Soviet Union may have been overestimated in some respects, but, in light of cold war archives, was clearly underestimated in others - for instance, the degree to which their spy apparatus had infiltrated the West. The Rosenbergs were indeed guilty.

The presience for which Hitchens and "Trotskyites" would take credit was hardly obvious at the time. By what mystical Hegelian imaginings could he or others "know" the extent of the "missle gap" or the degree to which the Soviets would meddle in Cuba, the Middle East or Central Asia? In light of today's focus on intelligence lapses, he'd be the first to admit the fallibility and ambiguity of these information sources.

This part of his interview seems no more than Monday morning quarterbacking to cover his ass. It is a fatuous and disingenuous argument to suggest a moral equivalence of the former Soviet Union and the United States because it was somehow obvious the Soviets were not really a threat. This is sub par for Hitchens. Otherwise, he's on form.

Posted by: BF at December 11, 2003 06:23 AM

You've been branded a radical centrist (by me!). Be careful what you wish for.

www.rogerlsimon.com

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at December 11, 2003 08:33 AM

It is a fatuous and disingenuous argument to suggest a moral equivalence of the former Soviet Union and the United States

No, that's not what Hitchens is saying, nor is it what he believes. He was ecstatic when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 11, 2003 08:34 AM

Wow, Hitchens is quite a character!

The two points in his interview that struck me:

1. He doesn't want to be pigeonholed on the left or the right. He seems a true iconaclast. He seems to have contempt for much of the mainstream left (as blindingly irrational), but sees the Spirit of '68 (which is the spirit of anti-dictatorial liberty) as a candle still held by a few Leftists, which can save the rest of the Left from Cloud Cuckoo Land.

As for the Right, he seems to say, yeah the majority of you are right on the Big Issue now, but Nixon/Kissenger were anti-democratic shits and there are many elements in the current Right who are also dictator-appeasers (the State Dep., etc.) And, oh yeah, you're screwing up many of the particulars (like not incorporating Iraqis into the rebuilding fast enough).

2. We're gonna win this war against terror; in fact it's "un-loseable." Why? Because a jihad can only war against rationalism for so long, before it collapses exhausted. The desire for liberty, on the other hand, constantly replenishes itself. On dark days, that's a nice thought to keep in mind.

Hitchens seems a true radical centrist. Thanks for linking to his thoughts, Michael.

Posted by: Matt Ward at December 11, 2003 09:54 AM

Michael,

My sentence would have been better phrased "the moral equivalence of the former Soviet Union and the former United States".

This was the position of the British left in the 1980's, and from the interview, seems to be the position held by Hitchens then, and now - as regards the historical record of both nations in the 60's through the 80's.

The argument is made to justify his positions of that time in response to a serious challenge by the interviewer. He will not say that he was wrong at the time. Rather, he suggests that it was obvious to the enlightened Trotskyites that the Soviet threat would not sustain itself - and therefore the US policy was unjustified and extreme. This is hindsight sophistry.

I admire and have great respect for Hitchens. Yet, surely, in 40 years he has picked the wrong horse a few times. I can't claim to know all his work, as I am mainly familar with a smattering of his journal articles and interviews - I would therefore be enlightened and grateful if anyone can point out to me where he directly admitted to having been plain wrong about anything. It would be news to me.

Posted by: BF at December 11, 2003 10:40 AM

BF,

I screwed up. I cut this significant sentence from my excerpt of the Hitchens interview. He said:

I did believe that an alternative version of democratic socialism was available to outweigh and replace both global empires, though I find that this conviction has fallen away from me and may never have been a real option - though I am not ashamed of having upheld it.

I didn't want to excerpt too much of his piece. I'm not in the republishing business. But I probably should have included that sentence, for Hitchens' sake as well as yours.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 11, 2003 10:49 AM

"I screwed up. I cut this significant sentence from my excerpt of the Hitchens interview"

Well, that is some admission of wrong-headedness by Hitchens, albeit qualified and glancing.

It is notable that he considered both the US and the USSR to be global empires - moral equivalence once again. I was against the US actions in Vietmam, Chile, Argentina and Greece, but never considered the USSR and the US to be in the same league of moral culpability.

Posted by: BF at December 11, 2003 11:23 AM

BF: I was against the US actions in Vietmam, Chile, Argentina and Greece, but never considered the USSR and the US to be in the same league of moral culpability.

Neither did Hitchens. Not to my knowledge anyway, and I've been reading everything I can find by him for about eight years now.

He was wrong about some things and he knows it, but he was not quite as wrong as you seem to think he was. Remember that he was a democratic socialist, not a Communist. A thousand miles separates the two.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 11, 2003 11:38 AM

MT,

I know Hitchens was not a Communist. I appreciate the difference from democratic socialists...but...moral equivalence of the US and the USSR was often espoused by democratic socialists in Britain. It was, for example, the focal question posed in Casper Weinberger's well known Oxford debate with...a British socialist (name escapes me...). The meme still lives among socialists of many stripes. As for Hitchens in particular, however, I'll bow to your better famiarity with his work, but would hope to someday hear a simple statement from him in this regard.

Posted by: BF at December 11, 2003 12:07 PM

The most useful statement in the entire interview, and the crux of the issue, is:

"The matter on which I judge people is their willingness, or ability, to handle contradiction.... It's important to try and contain multitudes.... The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has - from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness."

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at December 11, 2003 12:58 PM

Hitchens's biggest blind spot is religion. I don't necessarily disagree with his position on Israel's territorial issues but you can see that he just doesn't understand religion and is extremely hostile to all belief. I share his open hatred of fanaticism but you can see that he harbors deep emnity towards even the most casual of believers - it is barely concealed. I think this makes his thinking on the issue less effective. He is hostile not just to Israeli settlers but to the whole state itself. He is also likely to turn on his current ideological allies, the neoconservatives, because they are not militant atheists and open to the idea of "faith," be it Jewish, Christian, Islamic or others.

Posted by: John, Tokyo at December 11, 2003 05:44 PM

Michael:

Have you ever read Robert Conquest's book on the Great Terror? Trotsky does not come off that well - he's seen as merely a partisan on the losing side of the insane in-fighting that occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1920's and 1930's.

I don't think Trotsky or his followers opposed Stalin on moral grounds. I don't think the term "morality" even meant anything to them. Everything was about the communist party and world revolution, and anything that furthered the great cause was OK by them. Conquest even relays an episode where Trotsky talked about possibly having to support Stalin agains the forces of counter-revolution. He could be just as ruthless as any one of the other "great intellectual" murderers that comprised the leadership of the early Soviet Union.

My only real knowledge of him comes from Conquest's book, but I find it hard to see how he could be portrayed as a positive figure.

Tim Irwin

Posted by: Tim Irwin at December 11, 2003 06:41 PM

MJT-

You would do well to some additional research on Trotsky. Your appraisal of him is stomach churning. He was not Anti-Stalinist, he was Stalin writ small...just as bloodthirsty, just not as murderously effecient. Trotsky's life is not defensible. Period.

As to Hitchens, he spent 20 years of his life collaborating and consorting with the defender of Pol Pot (Chomsky) and the defender of Palestinian terror (Said), as well as the normal gallery of Leftist Fools. His mission and his message never varied; the U.S. was the epicenter of oppression, orientalism and exploitation.

And now that he has found, to his horror, that he has people such as Bin Laden in fundamental agreement with his assessment of the U.S., he stikes an Orwellian pose of the Disillusioned Leftist Idealist. Blah! To what uncorrupted intellect (or morality) did Chomsky or Said appeal to either prior to or after 9/11? Even in the post at this site, he cannot resist call the U.S. a 'rogue nation', i.e. a TERRORIST nation, during the Nixon years. Sounds like a Bin Laden fatwah to me.

But then again I'm not quite as nuanced as Christopher. I don't quite see the fine line that absolves those who call the U.S. a 'rogue nation' for fun and profit and then recoil from the consequences of people agreeing via violence and terror with such assessments. And I certainly don't understand how Christopher expects everyone to appreciate the nuance that we are not now the 'rogue nation' we were during the Nixon years. Bid Laden and his minions seem not to be the most nuanced of men.

Hitchens is a windy, pose-striking Marxist fool of a fraud. He is useful only to the extent that he can now annoy people such as Chomsky, the staff of 'The Nation' and the Internation ANSWER crowd. At the time he is no longer willing or able to provide that service, I would be thrilled to see Christopher reseat himself at his favorite D.C. bar and drink himself to death.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at December 11, 2003 07:23 PM

Besides Kissinger and Nixon being guilty of crimes against humanity for Viet Nam and Chile, I believe Christopher claims in "No One Left To Lie To" that Bill Clinton was guilty of crimes of humanity for his Sudan missile strike. So was the U.S. a 'rogue nation' during the Clinton years?

If not, I'd love to hear his nuanced explanaton of the distinction between the rogue Nixon years and the nonrogue Clinton years.

Some Radical Centerist! If you want 'Radical Centerism' to be meaningful, you best drop any mention of Chris Hitchens. Peel the layers back and he's Noam Chomsky...writ small. That ain't anywhere near the center.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at December 11, 2003 07:31 PM

This whole "rogue nation" thing is starting to annoy me. Why didn't he call the Soviet Union a "rogue nation" for oppressing all of Eastern Europe? And who does he think kept the West free these last fifty years, if not the American "empire"? Canada?

Posted by: Vlad in Inhaler at December 11, 2003 09:16 PM

Christopher Hitchens was ecstatic when the Soviet Union collapsed. It was far worse than a rogue nation, and he knew it and says so today as well as then.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 12, 2003 12:29 AM

I guess I'm one of the last regulars to welcome you back Michael; I was busy... reading CH! My own blog includes:
Hitchens “There is a noticeable element of the pathological in some current leftist critiques, which I tend to attribute to feelings of guilt allied to feelings of impotence. Not an attractive combination, because it results in self-hatred.”

… “The Taliban and the Ba’ath and the Serbian Socialist Party will not regain power, however much violence they muster. These are facts. The combat as a whole will never be “over”, because it is part of a permanent struggle between reason and unreason, among other things. But to assert that rather minimal point is also to assert that the enemy cannot win.”

And I add, pretty right on, Hitch, but you’re wrong about the combat as a whole. It WILL be over, when we live in a World Without Dictators. I pray that I live to see it.

And this is important, because when the US did morally ambiguous stuff in Vietnam, Chile, etc., it was because it was trying to support a lesser, realistic evil against a greater evil. I haven't seen Hitch, or any anti-Vietnam War Leftists, admit one iota of responsibility for Pol Pot's murders -- yet it's quite clear they would NOT have happened had the US stayed in Vietnam...

But now, w/o the Soviet Union, and before Commie China becomes to imperial, there is a window of opportunity to help push many more countries away from dictatorships. So now, in this and the next decade, the USA has an opportunity to help remove dictators -- and the Left, and the moral Right, should be able to agree with Bush: 60 years of appeasing dictators doesn't bring us safety.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 12, 2003 02:03 AM

look, Hitchens is a leftist, in the sense that he still believes that an organized State that intends to use its power to reduce suffering does so better than market forces.

he's still wrong about that, but he is beginning to change his mind.

in the past, he was an apologist for murderous regimes because of the above belief. not so now. his defense of his prior thoughts is the defense of a man remembering the goals of his prior belief system--something he has yet to find un-noble.

one cannot be thoughtful and rational and change one's mind immediately. to do so is simply to buy a new religion, wholesale, instead of carefully clarifying, assessing, and assembling into a new system of ideas and thought.

hitchen's problem is the following: he believes that the organized state, if it intends to help reduce suffering, does so better than market forces. but he has been slowly accepting that the premise that the organized State INTENDS to reduce suffering has never once been put in practice by any marxist-maoist-communist regime. for a long time, he simply believed they were doing it incorrectly--that the leaders of those regimes were the problem, not fundamentally the marxism/communism. over time, he saw that those regimes were not interested in reducing suffering, and he rejected those regimes, But Not The Premise.

recently, he has seen that the Left (my catch-all name for those from the democractic-liberal to the socialist to the communist-totalitarian), hasn't been interested in reducing suffering, either. And by then, his "change of heart" looked sudden--but it wasn't really. it was the Western world's version of the Left that had lost any touch with its claimed prior goal of reducing suffering--and he could not see how they had slowly evolved, either, until his position and theirs radically diverged.

his comparison above was not of the US to the Soviet Union; it was of Kissinger to a Stalin-esque individual (though not in Stalin's position.) His Rogue State argument might be over the top, but then again, so was Kissinger.

But while I think Hitchens was wrong for being a lefist, his anti-american arguments of the past are rooted in a different kind of notion than current anti-american arguments are, even if the words used are the same. Hitchens railed against "conservatism"--though, the notion of "conservative" or "the Right" that Hitchens railed against then, and in this interview is still railing against is not a notion of conservative that has ever had much ideology behind it. The conservatism he rails aginst was simply the "maintain the status quo, even if people suffer, if in the short-term we think it's in our interest." Such "conservatism" was more than willing to support Communist China even while they butchered and destroyed millions of people's lives--in order to triangulate the threat of the Soviet Union. but there was no moral ideology behind this move.

for many of us on the Right, and largely for what is now called "neo-conservative", we are simply closer to an 19th c. Liberal: believing in some principle behind our conservatism--our conservatism says that we uphold a belief that freedom for all people is best preserved inside democratic republics coupled with a strong rule of law, and those freedoms include property rights. From that notion of conservatism, self-determination is a cornerstone, and therfore, other issues of limited government are derived, while national security interests are still valued for simultaneously maintaining our chance at self-determination, and coincidentally, increasing that chance for others (and therefore, increasing out safety, and chance for future self-determination.)

there are still core differences with that and leftist views, but Hitchens is beginning to believe that the Left never Did care about the suffering. That's still a far cry from believing that smaller government in fact provides a world with less suffering, or believing that there is no set of "Smart enough" people who would know how to organize the state and correct tell people what they need to be happy, but it's a beginning. People do not have second thoughts quickly or all at once.

Posted by: greifer at December 12, 2003 02:44 AM

Then again, maybe it's not Hitchens who has the blind spot with respect to religion...

Communism and socialism have always been anti-religion, because they are competing for the same portion of society--the group of people who need to believe in something Greater. The religious believe that Man is fallible, but need to posit an entity that is not. Socialism claims not to that God is dead, but that People can replace him--that the Well Ordered Society can achieve perfection/utopia. Man is no longer fallible--they posit themselves as the entity that is something Greater.

the irony is the vehemence with which he attacks religious icons is the same kind of vehemence with which he was a Leftist. it seems that he is still competing for the same people. he wants them not to be duped by certain religious icons. Maybe because he knows how easy it is to be duped by one's own belief system.

One could argue the other direction--not that Hitchens will turn on the Neo-cons, but that the social conservatives will turn on Neo-Cons, for they will decide that neo-cons are too pluralistic and in some sense, willing to change society too greatly for their goals. i.e. the social conservatives do not approve of a radical center.

Posted by: greifer at December 12, 2003 02:58 AM

Trotsky did indeed oppose Stalin on moral grounds. He thought it was morally wrong for Stalin to be persecuting Trotsky and killing his followers.

On the other hand, he didn't have any moral objections to Stalin killing aristrocrats, priests, capitalists, rich peasants or members of political parties other than the Bolsheviks. Why would he? He'd done plenty of those things himself.

Posted by: Martin Adamson at December 12, 2003 03:54 AM

Lenin's principal criticism of Trotsky prior to his own death was that he felt Trotsky employed violence too quickly and too severely in nearly every situation he faced after the November Revolution through the defeat of the Whites.

Lenin said this in writing in 1923 (I believe) in his famed evaluation of his senior comrades.

Let that roll around the brain pan...Trotsky could make soulless killer such as Lenin feel squeamish.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at December 12, 2003 04:49 AM

Christopher Hitchens was ecstatic when the Soviet Union collapsed. It was far worse than a rogue nation, and he knew it and says so today as well as then.

Well thank God that's cleared up. Perhaps Hitchens can help in the future by providing us a carefully graded list of epithets so we'll know precisely which ring of Hell we currently occupy.

Posted by: Vlad the Inhaler at December 12, 2003 09:57 AM

Michael J. Totten says: I am reasonably sure he opposed Stalin on moral grounds. I am absolutely certain that Trotskyists opposed Stalin on moral grounds. That's what Trotskyism was ultimately all about, after all.

The dispute between Stalin and Trotsky that got Trotksy exiled was over the liquidation of the Kulaks. Trotsky thought Stalin was too soft.

Posted by: James A. Donald at December 12, 2003 02:39 PM

Thanks, greifer, for good notes on Hitch & the Left; and the potential for changing minds.

I often ask which is better: meaning to do good, but not succeeding; vs not caring whether good is done or not, but successfully doing good.

I claim good results are more important; BUT not quite that they justify bad means.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 12, 2003 05:08 PM

Hitchens wrote a Vanity Fair piece two years ago called "For Patriot Dreams" that would surely make some of you rethink your opinion of him. I wish I could link to an online version, but it is dead-tree only. You can find it in last years "Best American Essays" collection. Read it standing up in the book store aisle if you must, but do read it if you can.

Here is an excerpt:

------------------

In the fall of 1990 (and the once beautifully combined words “New York” and “the fall” will never again have quite the same sound to me), George Orwell wrote of a certain human quality that attaches itself to particular horrors. He was looking back to his boyhood, through the prisms of a frightful war that had just begun and a frightful war that had clouded his youth. As he put it:

I must admit that nothing in the whole war moved me so deeply as the loss of the Titanic had a few years earlier. This comparatively petty disaster shocked the whole world, and the shock had not quite died away even yet. I remember the terrible, detailed accounts read out at the breakfast table (in those days it was common to read the newspaper aloud), and I remember that in all the long list of horrors the one that most impressed me was that at the last the Titanic suddenly up-ended and sank bow foremost, so that the people clinging to the stern were lifted no less than three hundred feet in the air before they plunged into the abyss. It gave me a sinking sensation in the belly which I can still all but feel. Nothing in the war gave me quite that sensation.

“Look teacher,” a child cried during a school evacuation as the towers were becoming pyres. “The birds are on fire.” The infant was rationalizing the sight of human beings making a public choice between incineration and suicide, and often suffering the most extreme pangs of both fates. Yes, we will look. And yes, we will remember it long after other miseries have intervened. The title of Orwell’s 1940 essay, incidentally, was “My Country Right or Left.” Confronted in this manner, and affronted too, one has to be able to say, My country after all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 12, 2003 05:18 PM

In about 1919, Trotsky made a phone call that went through an old-fashioned telephone exchange. The telephone operator did not know who he was and may have been impertinent. Trotsky later called the supervisor of the exchange and ordered him to execute the woman. The supervisor (aged 17) said the shift had changed and he could not figure out who to blame.

The supervisor was my father. He was not a fan of Trosky or any of the Communists because he knew first hand the level to which they were corrupted by power.

Incidentally, I think Hitchens is very caught up in his own cleverness. He uses it to mask his biases and sometimes argues against plain reality.

Posted by: greenmamba at December 12, 2003 06:04 PM

MJT-

No! I know the piece and it will not do!

It is offensive as it is blasphemous that the likes of Christopher Hitchens would continuously invoke the likes of George Orwell in an attempt to make us forget he was judge to Bin Laden's executioner.

If Orwell was imperfect, and he was, he was at least blessed with a ruthless honesty about the world and himself that Hitchens could never begin to understand. Orwell came to his positions through hard living, hard fighting and hard thinking. Orwell accepted his share of the responsibility. That cannot be said of Christopher Hitchens.

I refuse to allow Hitchens to evade his responsibility by striking the pose of a disillusioned Leftist. He spent more than 20 years of his life attempting to demonstrate the fundamental evil of Western Civilization (by that I mean liberal democracy and capitalism) as represented by the United States (and Israel, by the way). In doing this Christopher Hitchens willing collaborated with the likes of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and Howard Zinn...supporters and defenders of every terrorist or tyrant or evil that could and did threaten our nation and our people over the past half century.

If you wonder how it could be that one in four Germans support the Islamofascists over the Coalition in Iraq, I suggest you look no further than Christopher Hitchens and the people he has consorted with, by choice, for be majority of his adult life. That one in four Germans hate us more than Saddam can be attributed to, in no small part, the cumulative effect of Hitchens' (and his collaborators) persistent and insistent anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Democratic drumbeat.

If Christopher Hitchens how claims to be a "radical centerist" it is not because he has come to any true understanding of his complicity in shaping the events of these past few years, to say nothing of accepting his share of the responsibility. Hitchens does not have the necessary capacity for the type of self-analysis or criticism.

I would direct your attention to another piece written by Hitchens after 9/11. It is his resignation letter to 'The Nation'. Go ahead and read the piece in its' entirety if you wish, but the body of the letter is not the important item...what is important is his closing salution to Katha Pollitt and the staff and readership of 'The Nation':

"Fraternally Yours,"

That is, and has been for nearly 90 years, the standard phaseology of all Socialists and Communists around the world. Trotsky used it, as did Stalin.

So here we have Hitchens' protesting he amorality of his former friends for opposing what he sees as a war of fascism, while at the same time expressing a solidarity with fascism in another (European, that is) form.

Deploring the fascism of the Arab/Muslim world while winking at the fascism of the Communist world is not moral clarity. At best it is a twisted double standard, and at worst it is simple racism. Do you really think a man of George Orwell's honesty and clarity would have done anything other than rip Christopher Hitchens apart for this?

Invoke Hitchens at your own risk. Many of us have functioning long-term memories, and are not in the mood, so long as our citizens are dying in defense of the ideals of Western civilization and liberal democracy, to grant the likes of Christopher Hitchens the easy out he so desperately wants.

Hitchens was a fascist before the towers fell, and when you peel back the B.S. from what he proclaims post-9/11, he still is.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at December 13, 2003 11:10 AM

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thanks for the comments. in re: to your statement about means/goals, interestingly, it cuts both ways. I think it's pretty clear most communists always believed that the ends justified the means. There were even people who believed so strongly in communism that they left the US to return to Stalinist Russia, KNOWING THEY WOULD BE KILLED FOR DOING SO, and thought it was acceptable--they believed that their death was better for communism. so when communists argue that our methods were morally questionable, ya gotta note that they were willing to sacrifice themselves, or allow genocide countless times, for their own utopia...

I'm not sure if Hitchens as yet decided that the obvious cost of this method is so evil that no eventuality justifies this.

On that level, at least, I can appreciate those who view us fighting this war on terror as a similar kind of cost--perhaps they view the means as so costly or evil (any way, say) that no eventuality can make them change their mind. I can at least see the analogy when they say that our waging war for our utopian goal of no more terror is analogous to the genocide for the utopia of communists. I disagree, of course, but at least I see the roadmap they are walking along.

I think we always need to stay cognizant of both pieces--the rightness of the attempted method, and the rightness of the goal.

your comments about vietnam are dead on--our goal wasn't wrong there, even if we screwed up the execution. my biggest arguments about vietnam though are really that our foreign policy Wasn't interested in doing the right thing Enough--what i've read leads me to conclude that kissinger sold out the south vietnamese and didn't care about the Killing Fields that would come later. but what better could we have done?
which comes to another argument against the current shrillness of the left--what is it they claim they would they do instead to eradicate the suffering of the iraqis?

In march, right before the war in iraq started, I was talking with a colleague at my university who is a self-proclaimed leftist who was screaming about how it was wrong wrong wrong to go to war because in her words "bush isn't doing this to help iraqis".

So I asked her "forget what bush is doing. What Would YOU Do to help iraqis?"

she had no answer. I pressed her. She said that if the iraqis wanted freedom, they could overthrow Hussein themselves. I was astonished, but I kept at it. we continued arguing, with her over and over again complaining that bush and co. were doing it for the Oil, for companies etc (yes, she argued the same about afghanistan, too.)

in the end, I asked the following question "Okay. Assume you're right, that Bush is waging this war for his own personal profit. If the iraqis end up being liberated by Bush's self-serving motives, is this Good or Bad?" She said it was WRONG.

so then I said "If a thing is done for the wrong reasons, and good comes of it, is the thing wrong or right?" "It's Wrong."

At that point, the conversation was over, because I finally saw that That Idea was the main point of contention we had. I don't think that way. I think things done that have more good effects than bad, are good, generally, and I don't care about the motivation, I care about the effect. I recognize that it is incredibly difficult for me to discern motives. (this is different than methods--I can judge the goodness/badness of methods, and not all methods are justifiable.) But there would be no consensus for her and me, no matter how long we argued back and forth, because she was not saying war was wrong because was is always the wrong method toward an end goal -- she was saying that the MOTIVATION behind that war made the war bad, and I could never bring enough facts to bear for her to change her interpretation of someone's motivation.

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If the motivation for the war is not the freeing of the Iraqi people but rather the establishment of a Pax Americana or an oil grab, then the occupation afterwards will be about the Pax Americana or the oil grab, with Iraqi freedom tossed by the wayside when it becomes incompatible with the former two.

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563 V-TECH BP-511 / 1300mAh

564 OLYMPUS E-1 + ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-54mm F2.8-3.5

565 OLYMPUS ZUIKO DIGITAL 11-22mm F2.8-3.5

566 OLYMPUS ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-54mm F2.8-3.5

567 OLYMPUS ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50-200mm F2.8-3.5

568 OLYMPUS ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50mm F2 MACRO

569 OLYMPUS ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 300mm F2.8

570 OLYMPUS Telekonwerter 1,4x do 14-54; 50-200 i 300

571 V-TECH NV-5H / 700mAh

572 V-TECH NP-40 / 650 mAh

573 V-TECH NP-60 / 1000 mAh

574 V-TECH NP-80 / 1300 mAh

575 V-TECH NP-120 / 1500 mAh

576 V-TECH EN-EL1 / 700 mAh

577 V-TECH EN-EL2 / 1000 mAh

578 V-TECH EN-EL3 / 1300 mAh

579 V-TECH DR-LB4 / 800 mAh

580 V-TECH BP1000S / 800 mAh

581 V-TECH FC-10 / 700 mAh

582 V-TECH FS-11 / 1100 mAh

583 V-TECH S101E / 680 mAh

584 V-TECH S602E / 1300 mAh

585 V-TECH DMW-BM7 / 650mAh

586 V-TECH DMW-BCA7 / 650 mAh

587 V-TECH NP-200 / 650 mAh

588 V-TECH NP-20 / 580 mAh

589 V-TECH DB-L10 / 1000 mAh

590 YINYAN W501

591 YINYAN W600

592 YINYAN W802

593 YINYAN W803

594 YINYAN W806

595 YINYAN W807

596 YINYAN W901 zestaw do podwieszania tła

597 MAGICSTOR 2,2GB

598 MAGICSTOR 2,2GB

599 OLYMPUS C-5060 Wide Zoom+CF 256MB i torba GRATIS!

600 SONY NP-FC11 / 780 mAh

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