February 06, 2005

Drinking with Christopher Hitchens and the Iraqis

As many of you already know, I was on TV with Christopher Hitchens last weekend. Jim Hake of Spirit of America asked me to come out to Washington DC at the very last minute to be a part of the Iraqi election coverage program on C-SPAN. I had no idea until I got there that the Hitch was scheduled to be a part of it, too.

Christopher Hitchens.jpg

(If you missed the broadcast, you can still watch it here.)

I’ve received a whole gaggle of emails asking for details and stories about what happened at dinner after the show. So for all of you who asked, here we go. (CAVEAT: I did not take notes. This is all from memory, and I was drunk part of the time.)

We went to The Palm in downtown Washington. “We” included the following big-shots, along with little-shot me: Christopher Hitchens, author, journalist, and cantankerous polemicist; Andrew Apostolou, Director of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Ahman Al Rikaby, former Director of Radio Free Iraq and current Director of Iraq's Radio Dijla; Entifadh Qanbar, Special Envoy from the Iraqi National Alliance; Ghassan Atiyyah, Director of the Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy; and Hassan Mneimneh, Director of the Iraq Memory Foundation.

Andrew Apostolou wasn’t part of our news program, but he’s been a long-distance friend of mine for a while now. I had never actually met him in person, and I had to invite him. I figured he’d fit right in, and he did. Andrew is a bona fide expert on Iraq who seems to know just about everybody. The minute he showed up nearly all the Iraqis recognized him on sight and wanted to shake his hand. He gave me a little lapel pin in the shape of the Kurdistan flag. I stuck it on my collar. When Hitch showed up he was wearing one, too. And he noticed mine.

We all met in the bar while the restaurant staff prepared the big table. It was a tense scene from the get-go. Ghassan Atiyyah was none too impressed with Christopher Hitchens and his gung-ho enthusiasm. And let’s just say he didn’t keep that to himself. (Dr. Atiyyah was the notoriously doom-and-gloom grouch who pissed all over the election on camera.) He hated Hitchens on sight. And when I say “hate,” I mean white-hot, wide-eyed hate with flaring-nostrils.

Hitchens took it in stride. When the staff moved us all to our table, he addressed Atiyyah politely. “Sir,” he said. “Perhaps there is something in your personal story that some of us here don’t know about that might help explain where you’re coming from.”

Atiyyah just sat there, smoldering, and gave Hitchens the evil eye.

I had little interest in him. I had coffee with him that morning and he seemed like a reasonable, if slightly patronizing, person. But now he was distinctly unpleasant. He had no defenders at the table.

I’m not sure what happened next. I didn’t show up at that dinner to fight, nor did I feel like watching a fight. I get enough of that in my comments section. So I struck up a conversation with Hitchens’ wife who sat next to me.

We talked about Marc Cooper because he’s a friend we both have in common. She has been friends with him for a very long time – most of her life if I remember correctly. I’ve been friends with him for only a short time. But he worked as a conversation starter. As it turns out, Marc and I were considering hanging out in Las Vegas together that very weekend, but neither of us were actually able to be there. (I went to Washington on short notice, and he had to move his own Vegas trip up a couple of days.) She said Marc taught her how to play blackjack, and that she later won some big-shot tournament as a result. Marc loves Vegas and blackjack, and his latest book, The Last Honest Place in America: Paradise and Perdition in the New Las Vegas, is a terrific read even if you’re the type of person who can’t stand the city. He knows how to make the place fun and seem slightly less ridiculous than it actually is.

Despite my little sidetrack discussion, I was drawn back into the argument at the table.

Christopher Hitchens said to Ghassan Atiyyah: “If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power.” And of course he was right. We didn’t invade Iraq so we could midwife the birth of yet another despicable tyranny. “One man, one vote, one time” isn’t anything remotely like a democracy.

But Atiyyah would have none of that. He exploded in furious rage. “So you’re my colonial master now, eh?!” You have to understand – this man’s voice really carries.

Suddenly, Atiyyah did have defenders at the table. I could see that coming in the shocked expressions on the faces of the other Iraqis when they heard what Hitchens said. Ahman al Rikaby, intriguingly, was an exception. He just looked at Atiyyah with a cold and sober stoicism. But Hitchens had a defender, too. He had me.

“I agree with Christopher,” I said. “We didn’t invade Iraq to let it turn into another Iran.” I knew damn well all the Iraqis at the table were staunch opponents of religious fascism. This shouldn’t have been a point of contention. But, boy, was it ever.

“Who the hell are you?” Atiyyah said to Hitchens as if I weren’t the last one to speak. “Some Brit who lives in New York!”

“I beg your pardon, sir, but it wasn’t up to me where I was born,” Hitchens said.

“What do you mean when you say we?” Hassan Mneimneh said to me.

“I mean the US and Britain,” I said, “along with – hopefully – everyone here at this table.”

“Who are you to tell us what to do!?”

I didn’t like this one bit. It wasn’t an argument. Hell, I love an argument. This was a fight. And it was a fight between Americans and Iraqis who were all supposed to be on the same side. The merest slip and/or misunderstanding instantly fractured our happy alliance. Believe me, you don’t know what a tense political fight feels like until the person yelling at you is from a country you recently bombed and currently occupy. The Bush versus Kerry arguments got nothin’ on this. It was really quite horrible and I desperately wanted to make it stop. I had to answer Mneimneh’s question honestly and – hopefully – in a way that he could understand.

This, basically, is what I said to him: “First of all, it is our business if Iraqis or anyone else wants to put a Taliban government into power. People like that murdered thousands in our country and thousands more in countries all over the world - including Iraq. Second, I can assure that you Christopher and I would do everything we possibly could to prevent any Taliban-like force from taking power in our own country, as well as in yours. This has nothing to do with us telling you what to do and everything to do with fighting fascism wherever in the world it exists. And as long as Iraqis aren’t our enemy, I don’t care what they do. It’s none of my business. I certainly don’t want to rule over you or anyone else.”

There was so much yelling and interrupting and cross-talk going on I’m not sure Mneimneh heard even half of what I said. Nor do I remember what he said next. But I do remember that his facial expression and body language softened dramatically. Something I said must have got through to him, and thank God for that. He and I – truly – were on the same side. I knew it, and I’m pretty certain he knew it too. I did not want to fight with him, and I don’t think he enjoyed the experience any more than I did.

I looked over at Hitchens, who was sitting right next to me. He wasn’t rattled at all. He sat with his arms crossed and his legs sticking straight out in front of him, still battling it out with Dr. Atiyyah. He literally, physically, dug his heels into the floor.

“If you wanted more Iraqi support,” Atiyyah bellowed at Hitchens,” you should have given us more money and food once you got there!”

“So you’re saying, sir, that you can be bought,” Hitchens shot back.

I put my face in my hands. None of this was what I wanted to hear, and it dragged on longer than I’m making it seem in the re-telling.

Eventually, Jim Hake’s indispensable Web developer Donovan Janus pulled up a chair and had a long, quiet one-on-one talk with Dr. Atiyyah. I have no idea what they talked about. Donovan is an eminently reasonable person (he grew up in Holland), and whatever he said did the trick. The fight was diffused. The night’s tense opening was finished and we spent the rest of the evening as friends. We all could eat, drink, and smoke while genuinely enjoying each other’s company and learning from our different perspectives. Solidarity was back, and I felt certain it would not crack again. (I was right.)

Perhaps that fight needed to happen. Maybe there was no way to avoid the tension wrought by invasion and occupation, and the air just had to be cleared. Perhaps our Iraqi guests felt, on a subconscious level, like they needed to test us. Maybe they really didn’t (and don’t) completely understand how we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past. Perhaps their pride really is wounded, not just by Saddam but also by us. Maybe all these things are true at the same time. And surely there is more to it than that, things I might never be in a position to understand.

Friendly Arabs are the easiest people to bond with I’ve ever met. It takes no time at all to forge friendship if they’re willing – and they so often are. Despite our spat with the Iraqis (and who knows, perhaps in part because of that fight) I felt like those of us at the table were like old friends. Thank God and Allah for that. It gave me hope for the future, not only for our individual countries, but also hope for a future Iraqi-American alliance untainted by any distorted neo-imperial arrangement.

I respected them more, too, because they stood up to me and Christopher Hitchens. They are not servile people. They will never, ever, be anyone’s puppets. They are gentle and decent, and at the same time fierce and formidable. You really do not want to mess with them. And they’re great to have on your side.

We raised our glasses in a toast to the new free Iraq.

*

One-by-one people left.

Entifadh Qanbar asked me to please email him the photo of the veiled Iraqi voter with a tear in her eye. “I saw that picture and wept,” he said. “It is incredibly moving.”

Tears_of_Joy.jpg

On his way out the door I invited Andrew Apostolou to breakfast the next morning, where he showed up and had French toast and coffee with my bleary-eyed hung-over self.

Eventually it was down to just five of us – Christopher Hitchens, Ahman al-Rikaby, Jim Hake, Donovan Janus, and me.

Our waiter kindly gave us the boot at 11:00 p.m.

“Well,” Hitchens said. “I’m off. I have to get up in the morning and continue the fight on CNN.

“Oh, come on, Christopher,” I said. “You’re the one who’s supposed to keep us up all night.”

I could almost see the good angel on one shoulder getting the crap kicked out of him by the devil hovering over the other. It was the world’s shortest fight ever.

“Okay,” he said. “But this is downtown Washington on a Sunday. Nothing is open. We have to go back to my house. It never closes.”

“You left New York City for this?” I said.

He nodded and rolled his eyes.

“The bar at our hotel is open,” Jim said. “It stays open until 2:00.”

“Are you sure?” Hitchens said. He was highly suspicious.

I went to New York two weeks ago and wished I lived there instead of in Portland. But Washington made me happy as hell that I live where I live. There is absolutely no shortage of things to do and places to hang out in at 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday.

Jim turned out to be right. Our hotel bar was open, and it was a fine one – dim lighting, cozy tables, warm wood paneling, the works.

“Shall we get a bottle of wine?” someone (I think it was Jim) asked.

“Absolutely,” I said.

“Red or white,” he asked.

“Wine. Is. Red!” Hitchens said, and I couldn’t agree more. I had a 24-hour hangover from cheap white wine in a box when I was 14 years old. I haven’t been able to touch the stuff since. Even the thought of the taste of white wine makes my stomach do somersaults.

What a treat it is to talk politics and shop with Christopher Hitchens. When I yak about politics with most people we can’t get past fundamentals. But if Hitchens says “Kurdistan” or “Kissinger” I know exactly what he means and where he’s coming from. He needs say no more. We’re instantly on the same page on multiple levels all at once. We can talk about the finer points without getting bogged down in spats about imperialism, pacifism, and Bush.

But I did argue with him. And, no, I couldn’t beat him. I was too drunk and he was too smart and prepared.

Ahman al-Rikaby mentioned capital punishment. “I’m against it,” he said. “But at least for the next few months I will hope we execute Saddam Hussein.”

“Here’s to that,” I said.

Hitchens said no, as I knew he would.

“The core of the insurgency,” Ahman said, “are his Baathists. We have to defeat them. And we have to kill Saddam Hussein so they know there is no way they can go back.”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s the difference between Saddam and Ted Bundy. Bundy didn’t have fanatical killers running around loose in the streets cutting off heads in his name. He was harmless there in his cage. Saddam Hussein isn’t harmless as long as he’s breathing.”

“When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia,” Hitchens said, “they murdered the czar, his wife, and his children…so there would be no going back. Are you sure that’s what you want?"

I sighed. It was a hell of a point, and I was too drunk to come up with a response. But for the most part I was able to keep up with the conversation. Usually when I’m drunk - which doesn’t happen too often - I can hardly manage a sentence without being stupid. That night I felt like if the conversation reached a lull for even ten seconds I would be finished. Whatever tenuous grip I still had on logic and clarity would just evaporate and I’d float hopelessly away in a drunken fog for the rest of the night. I got up to use the restroom and felt like an utter fool when I nearly fell into Jim Hake’s lap. When I came back I stepped ever so gingerly back to my seat.

At one point, apropos of something I can’t remember, Ahman said to me: “I can tell you in one sentence how my country feels about your country.”

“Really?” I said. “Can you really boil it down to one sentence?”

“Yes,” he said. “And it is this: Thank you for coming, now please leave and take us with you.”

I laughed because it seemed totally contradictory and totally right.

The bartender came by and asked Hitchens if he wanted another drink. “Thank you so much,” Hitchens said, “you’re a perfect gentleman.” It’s funny. He’s exactly the same in person as he is on TV. The only difference is that he has a drink in one hand and a Rothmans cigarette in the other. What you see on TV is what you get. His persona isn’t a shtick, it’s his real personality.

I asked him if he reads blogs.

“No,” he said. “Not really. I could spend all day reading blogs and not get anything done.”

“You can’t afford not to read blogs,” I said. “Because of who you are and what you do for a living, you’ll be hopelessly behind if you don’t.”

“Yes,” he said. “I know, I know,” but I wasn’t sure he really meant it.

Later he told me he recently saw “that little weasel” Juan Cole speak in public.

“You know about that flap he had with Omar and Mohammed from Friends of Democracy?” (I am referring here to Omar and Mohammed of Iraq the Model. They also founded Friends of Democracy.)

I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t.

“He floated some conspiracy theory about how Omar and Mohammed, whom you spoke to over the phone on C-SPAN today, are possibly CIA plants.”

He stared at me gape-mouthed.

“He completely disgraced himself,” I said. “Most of the blogosphere piled on. You should have seen it.”

“You mean I stood right there in front of both him and his fans without that ammunition?”

He looked despondent. I felt triumphant.

“Like I said, Christopher,” I told him. “You can’t afford to be unplugged from the blogosphere."

“Angel,” he said. “Can I call you angel?”

“Of course,” I said. (Did he actually say that? – ed. I think so, but keep in mind I was drunk.)

“I want to exploit your knowledge of blogs,” he said.

“Email me,” I said. “You know where to find me.”

(He did email me. I showed him all of my favorites. And I showed him Juan Cole’s lunatic post.)

After the bar closed he gave Ahman al-Rikaby a bear hug.

He shook my hand. “Well met,” he said. “Well met.” I was the one who was supposed to say that.

Jim Hake’s cell phone rang. It was his wife.

“Christopher,” he said. “Will you talk to my wife for a second? She really wished she could meet you tonight.”

“Of course,” he said as Jim handed the phone over to him.

“Hello, my dear,” Hitchens said. “We missed you this evening.”

He may be a ruthless and scrappy polemicist. But he is also a perfect gentleman.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 6, 2005 11:53 PM
Comments

Congratulations on an interesting visit. I watched a bit of your television appearance. Well done.

I think if I were in your shoes -- having drinks as the lowly Cicero with Christopher Hitchens -- I'd probably just be dumbfounded all evening. I don't think as well as I would like on my feet. Especially with drinks.

Get some rest...

Posted by: Marcus Cicero at February 7, 2005 12:12 AM

That is what I call an Experience. One of those things you don't forget.

The part about Chris not reading blogs surprised me. He seemed to be the kind of guy who would realize their potential. Well, that has been corrected at least.

Posted by: FH at February 7, 2005 12:46 AM

I've always thought that the "hearts & minds" part of the equation was going to be tricky, to say the least. There's a Japanese saying to the effect that if you do a favor for someone you must humbly apologize, because you have caused them to lose face.

Posted by: miklos rosza at February 7, 2005 12:59 AM

Oh dear. I don't think I can get past my feelings of intense envy to say anything much at all.

Except, that was a fine post MJT. Excellent. And your response to Hassan Mneimneh was pure Totten. Well done.

Sigh...

Posted by: Fish at February 7, 2005 01:04 AM

Great to see someone yelling at that smug git Hitchens!

Thank you. I like Ghassan al-Atiyyah already.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at February 7, 2005 01:13 AM

Great post, Michael. I'm glad things turned out OK at the end.

I was a Vietnamese boat-people refugee, and I think Hitch is right about Iraq and wrong about Vietnam. I wonder what Hitch thinks about the suffering of the Vietnamese people after the end of the war; e.g. the mass executions, the re-education camps, the boat-people. Does Hitch go so far (like Chomsky) as to blame America for the Cambodian genocide? I haven't been able to find out much in Hitchen's writings on these topics. If anybody knows where I can find them, I would appreciate it.

BTW, you can get a bit of my background at my new blog http://vietpundit.blogspot.com/

Posted by: VietPundit at February 7, 2005 01:30 AM

Michael

Your argument at the table goes to the heart of the difficulty.

Two questions:

If the Shias take control democratically and move closer to Iran, by consent of the people, what will you do? I don't mean the rule of the clerics, but just closer? What happens then?

Maybe they really didn’t (and don’t) completely understand how we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past.

How do you know you are not imperialists? Maybe you are of a different type? It seems quite logical for America to be imperialistic in some way because of pressures such as increased global competition, the natural scarcity of resources, and the pressure of China.

Anyway, only time will tell, surely.

Posted by: Benjamin at February 7, 2005 02:18 AM

VietPundit

Good luck blogging.

Posted by: Benjamin at February 7, 2005 02:31 AM

“I wonder what Hitch thinks about the suffering of the Vietnamese people after the end of the war; e.g. the mass executions, the re-education camps, the boat-people.”

The same can be asked about Chile. Getting rid of Salvador Allende was a beautiful thing. Chile is today free and prosperous. Christopher Hitchens also leaves much to be desired concerning economic matters. Still, he does far more good than harm. And in the war against the Islamic nihilists---I cannot remember disagreeing with him even once.

The Democratic Party and their liberal allies were, on a practical level, the greatest enemy of the people of South Vietnam. The same holds true in Iraq. We must not allow the Democrats to ever again deliver human beings to totalitarian monsters.

Posted by: David Thomson at February 7, 2005 02:43 AM

"He’s exactly the same in person as he is on TV ... His persona isn’t a shtick, it’s his real personality."

That's the scariest thing I've read all week.

And yes, Hitchens and you are indeed imperialists if you think the US should have the right to overrule the outcome of Iraqi elections (in which case they weren't elections at all). You might think it would serve a better purpose (and you might even convince me) but you need to own up to it.

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 7, 2005 04:29 AM

"Getting rid of Salvador Allende was a beautiful thing."

It's so lovely when foreign agencies assassinate democratically-elected Presidents and have them replaced with military dictators.

Oh yes.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at February 7, 2005 04:33 AM

Wonderful stuff, Michael.

Well written
Well experienced
Well met

Posted by: melk at February 7, 2005 05:04 AM

I'm extremely impressed with the way you conducted yourself in that Kafkaesque situation.

Of course, I don't believe a word of it ;-)

But this was extraordinarily well written. And it was generous of you to publish this pro bono.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at February 7, 2005 05:27 AM

And yes, Hitchens and you are indeed imperialists if you think the US should have the right to overrule the outcome of Iraqi elections (in which case they weren't elections at all).

Farris,

silly emotion-driven Lib. That's all I can say.

Is it better to wait for them to give us a reason to conquer them after they turn around and stab us in the back? Is "changing the outcome of the elections" better then? How many lives would that cost? Use your head.

If we could have changed the outcome of the election in 1930's Germany it would have saved millions of lives. But YOU would have cried like the Liberal baby you are. Pure unadulterated irrationality, emotionality, childishness. There is no room for that in geopolitics. Your ideology gets people killed. You're all little Neville Chamberlain wannabes.

You make no logical sense, even if it does make you feel better about yourself, and it probably gets you chics too.

Posted by: Carlos at February 7, 2005 05:31 AM

"silly emotion-driven Lib. That's all I can say."

And how well you say it!

"Is it better to wait for them to give us a reason to conquer them after they turn around and stab us in the back?"

So what is it exactly that you think Iraqis owe the US?

"If we could have changed the outcome of the election in 1930's Germany it would have saved millions of lives. But YOU would have cried like the Liberal baby you are. Pure unadulterated irrationality, emotionality, childishness. There is no room for that in geopolitics."

What earthy connection do you perceive between 1930's Germany and 2000's Iraq?
To shift gears a little, after WWII, the US was in a position to control German elections and did to some extent (and in Japan) and yes, it was imperialistic, and yes, it was overall a good thing.
The quickest way to get to hell (and take other people with you) is to lie to yourself. If you favor imperialistic options, then trying to convince yourself that you're not is going to do more harm than owning up to your imperialistic beliefs in a forthright manner in the first place.
For what it's worth, I would be in favor of nullifying Iraqi elections won by Saddam or the Taliban (were they running), but I won't pretend to myself that that's not imperialistic.

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 7, 2005 05:55 AM

Michael,

Please tell me that you pointed the Hitch to Oliver Kamm's blog. I've been waiting for those two to discover each other and debate it out for quite some time. Two people, both exceptionally intelligent, that come from similar political backgrounds with common goals, yet differ greatly on specific issues (i.e Kissenger) make for the best debating. It'd be like watching punditry pornography.

Posted by: Hyggelig at February 7, 2005 06:06 AM

What earthy connection do you perceive between 1930's Germany and 2000's Iraq?

No present connection. And that's why no election was overturned.

I was merely illustrating the point, and I think you're very well aware of that.

You're most welcome to call me an imperialist if you like. It doesn't matter, as long as you're willing to debate the merits with me after that. D-Day was imperialism, and it changed the outcome of the 1993 Germans elections, but unfortunately it came a whole decade too late. That was imperialism too late in the coming, which meant tens of millions died that didn't have to. So I guess I'm an imperialist.

Posted by: Carlos at February 7, 2005 06:08 AM

I read your account of your little tiff with the westernised, english speaking Iraqis and it infuriated me. You backed down because you hate confrontation, didn't you?

Who are you to tell them what to do? You're the country that's going to spend half a trillion dollars rebuilding theirs after their local despot ran it into the ground.

Your the country that has lost fifteen hundred young lives, (any one of them worth twenty ignorant middle eastern jackasses- and screw your sentimental 'arabs are such good sorts' crap), and had ten THOUSAND injured to drag these barbarians kicking and screaming into the twentieth century, (we'll work on dragging them into the twenty first later, something tells me much later).

And who are they? The idiots who failed for thirty years to stop, overthrow or reform Saddam and his system, necessitating a costly American intervention.

You might as well have paid for their dinner, your going to be paying to rebuild their whole goddamn country for the next decade. Oh ,their poor widdle Iwaci pride is hurt? FUCK THEM. Your latent liberal guilt reflex kicked in and you felt awkward being from the country currently 'occupying' them? FUCK YOU ASSHOLE. Any of those young American soldiers would love to pack up and go home, but we all know what kind of utopia would result from a purely Iraqi managment of the transition DON'T WE NOW? So they have to stay, and die, for the benefit of your dinner companions.

At least Hitch stood up for himself while these parasites whined.

The Iraqis are going to be every bit as worthless, trecherous and corrupt 'allies' as the French. In twenty years Bahgdad will be modern, properous and at peace, and it's streets filled with Iraqi kids in blue jeans and backwards baseball caps protesting 'American Imperialism'.

You'd rather be liked than right, Totten. You're no Hitchens and never will be.

Goddamn pussy.

Posted by: Amos at February 7, 2005 06:08 AM

I love blogs and I love bloggers who can communicate. There you are having drinks with Hitchens and it feels like we are all part of the conversation. In the old media world we would never get this story because it would be inappropriate. And it is just as meaningful than any story they would print. It gives you a sense of who the people really are, and why they stand where they stand.

This kind of honesty is a beautiful thing and I can say is, keep up the good work.

Posted by: Undertoad at February 7, 2005 06:12 AM

"You're most welcome to call me an imperialist if you like."

Okay, imperialist. My point is that just about everyone (I'm not excepting myself) has some imperialistic beliefs. I just try to recognize them and not get hysterical about it. But do what makes you happy.

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 7, 2005 06:13 AM

Fish: Oh dear. I don't think I can get past my feelings of intense envy to say anything much at all.

I'm feeling the exact same way. I'm not a jealous guy; I rarely envy others b/c I'm thankful for all the things I do have, but right now I am more jealous of MJT than if I pulled up next to him at a stop light, looked over and saw him driving an Enzo Ferrari with Jennifer Garner naked in the passenger seat.

You son of a bitch... ; )

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 06:28 AM

That's odd ... Hitch cites blogs in his work.

Posted by: praktike at February 7, 2005 07:10 AM

A very interesting post. It shows the importance of national identity in people's lives. How many righties here would support a British invasion to overthrow a socialist United States government?

A more likely scenario than a democratically elected Taliban style government would be a democratically elected Iraqi government that refuses to allow us to use Iraq as a base for military action against the Iranian mullahs, or that criticizes Israel. Or, maybe in the future, a democratic Iran that wants to fire up a nuclear reactor. Where do people stand on US acceptance of things like that? If that's not acceptable to anyone, then they should cut the idealistic democratic rhetoric and just talk about the need to install pro-US regimes.

Hypocrisy smells bad. As does many of the comments here, which are pretty rancid. If "Amos" isn't a troll, who is?
Hey "Amos", Like you said, "FUCK YOU" you "ignorant little jackass."

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 07:16 AM

Imperialist.

Pussy, too.

"And who are we...?"

I'd have loved to have had a place at the table. Me with my NRA hat, suspenders and hogbody, alcohol- free blue state simplicity.

Something Mr. Atiyahh needs to realize is that if we did stand by and watch another Iran born we would be guilty of the worst sort of imperialism - the same kind Hitch hates so much - there can be. The practice of removing one stripe of odious dictatorship either ,movertly or covertly in order to have "friendly" thugs is partially responsible for why we are where we are today.

The driving imperative behind the Bush doctrine is that dictatorships that make prisoners of their victims bleed off the despair and hate they generate in the form of aggression. And aggression that is not countered always escalates.

I'm with Totten on his gut level call on Arab character. Great to have as friends, and possessors of a zero- time fuze if they believe they are being patronized or abused. They are very tough people; hell, look where they are from. I hear 'shame culture' used a lot when labels are being tossed back and forth. I think it's a bit more accurate to characterize it as a brigandage culture. I don't say that in order to paint a culture of thieves - I mean that there's no tradition of rule of law that individuals routinely accept. Their experience is that power only comes to those who ally with it - and freedom and fair play have little to do with that experience.

It is in our interest that the people of Iraq be free. It is in our interest that they achieve a society where individuals are protected from arbitrary dictates and empowered to act as an electorate to choose their leaders. It is in our interest that that part of the world achieve a stability that removes the engine from the machine that is Islamic fundametalism.

Because if the voiceless despair of the hundreds of millions remains as a resource exploitable by the same old class of thugs and theocrats, it will become in our interest to simply end the fight.

I do not see Arabs as enemies. Nor Persians. Nor muslims. People who's doctinal ambitions categorically reject the existence of western civilization? People who have a public track record of transnational aggression and support of the same in pursuit of their their goals?

Hunt them down and kill them where they live.

Their beef is emphatically NOT with "the government" of the United States. Their target is every free citizen on the planet. It's my government's responsibility to make sure that the common defense is conducted, and the days when there was an allowable quota of dead diplomats, servicemen, and citizens is done.

I think Hitchen's gave Mr. Allyeh a very honest account of the way things are. Our interests do coincide with those of the people of Iraq. It is better to do the honest heavy lifting to prevent another Iran than it would be to turn a blind eye now out of expediency. OUR interest in introducing democratization is ultimately intended to head off the war of annihalation the surely lays at the end of a road travelled by nuclear armed terror regimes.

I think Mr. Alliyeh better listen to the Brit. Hitchens shows a clearer understanding of the red people in this country than even Totten does. And the red folks will be the ones electing executives and legislators for the foreseeable future.

We are done being targets. We believe strongly enough in the transformative power of democracy being able to protect our lives and interests to support the Bush Doctrine. We reserve the right to change our minds.

We act in our interests. That is the only honest diplomacy a government can execute. That we are spending blood and treasure to extend the freedoms that we enjoy is a noble and visionary act. Liberal, if you will. The alternative is always there, and there are hundreds of history books that spell out how irreconcilable conflict has been usually resolved.

We are Americans. Trying new things is what we do. Only time will tell if this particular effort will work.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 7, 2005 07:18 AM

Amos,

You've won! You did it! You have effectively become the most arrogant, ignorant, reactionary, simple minded piece of shit to ever post here!!

That drivel was so bad I'm actually still choking down the bile in my throat.

Your the country that has lost fifteen hundred young lives, (any one of them worth twenty ignorant middle eastern jackasses

WHO THE HELL APPOINTED YOU TO JUDGE THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE!!!

It is exactly people like you whom we have to thank for countries like Iran, where Western Imperialists devalued, raped and pillaged the natives for their land and resources until all that was left was nothing more than a festering pit of poverty and hatred.

And you dare you invoke the name of Mr. Hitchens who, if he heard your little rant with his own ears, would be among the first to knock your teeth back into your skull.

Do us all a favor and retch your vitriolic spew somewheres else!

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 07:47 AM

I vote for banning Amos. It's unfortunate because he has the right to his opinion. And he has the right to be wrong and generally an SOB. But I don't think he has the right to address people the way he has.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at February 7, 2005 08:00 AM

I second that motion Jeremy

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 08:07 AM

With apologies to Mr. Kipling

You may talk a good debate,
when you're up an' bloggin' late,
and you paraphrase what 'annity just said.
But when it comes to C-SPAN,
You've got to be your own man,
Cause debatin' with Iraqis gets ya dead.
It was on election night,
when we settled in to fight ,
and debate on what outcomes might be.
But in the final fray,
the man who saved the day,
Was our token Centrist Blogger, MJT.
With a "Click, Click, Click"
You Geeky Nerdy Blogger, MJT.

The form o' prose, 'e used,
was nothin' polished like the news,
an' was tainted with a slur from good red wine.
But with spell check in 'is brain,
an' no commentors refrain,
'e held the field an' bought me precious time.
What with polemic-type zeal,
and a certian pundit feel,
he debated on the future of Iraq,
and when I gasped for breath,
dug my heels, and fought like death,
MJT was there a'pickin up the slack.

And it was MJT,
drinkin' and debatin' Iraq's fate,
"Choose Freedom this election,
or we'll leave you the insurrection!"
And the Doctor barred his teeth at MJT.

'E's not a Red State man,
nor wot I'd call a Blue State Fan,
But has turned a greenish mix from both extremes,
'E went back to his blog,
buried in that comment fog,
Now he posts of the world as seen by MJT.

Well, I'll meet 'im later on,
when someone finally drops the bomb,
Where it's always DoubleDoS, and no bandwidth,
'E'll be typin on the coals,
bloggin for those poor damned souls,
And I'll get a Hat Tip in 'Ell from MJT!

YES! MJT!
Your bloggin' with Belial, MJT.
I may jest when comment posting,
but this one's just a roasting!
Now that you're a bigtime Star, Oh MJT!

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord
Chatterer of the Words of Eris
Muncher of The ChaoAcorn
POEE of The Great Googlie Mooglie Cabal

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 7, 2005 08:20 AM

Well, I'll meet 'im later on,
when someone finally drops the bomb,
Where it's always DoubleDoS, and no bandwidth,
'E'll be typin on the coals,
bloggin for those poor damned souls,
And I'll get a Hat Tip in 'Ell from MJT!--Tosk

Thanks for channeling Rudyard this AM.No sense talking about imperialism without an appearance from the voice of the Raj.

Posted by: dougf at February 7, 2005 08:36 AM

Aye, Dougf, my thoughts exactly ;-)

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 7, 2005 08:37 AM

Great description of what must have been a fine night. Perfect travel writing. (Who published Bruce Chatwin?)

Iraqi self-hatred/ pride/ projected out against those who recused the Iraqi people -- and made it clear the Iraqis didn't do it themselves. Not Enough. This is why the biggest mistake of the US occupation is TOO LITTLE reliance on Iraqis, for budget decisions and security decisions at the local city/ town levels. And accept the Iraqi mistakes; and have US forces mostly do what the local Iraqi leaders want.

We seem to be doing MUCH better than in Vietnam, thank God. I'm surprised the (wonderfully described) dinner fight didn't include more religion vs. atheism.

I favor Death Penalty -- in theory. Problem is those two types of errors: false guilties, and false unpunished/ not guilty verdict (when a guilty one is let go).
I'm pretty sure a few folk who were not-guilty of their crimes HAVE, in fact, been executed in the last 100 years (50? 10?).
But, as was said (here?), Saddam is already known to be guilty. Without any doubt.

"Hangin's too good for him." I actually would prefer a trial, a LOOONG trial, with every person who has survived an injustice in Iraq under Saddam able to testify, and include it in the charges against him.
And then let Saddam be executed.

Tosk, fun poem!

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 7, 2005 08:48 AM

I appreciate Hitchens and, having surfed on here after having read of Totten from the essential Johann Hari, I am ready to appreciate Totten too.

But this virtual foot-worship of Hitchens by Totten is frankly Fergie-esque in it's fetishism and more than a little creepy!

The comments on the dinner table heated discussion were helpful. The grovelling to the altar of Hitch less so.

Posted by: Tempelton at February 7, 2005 08:56 AM

Amos's point is well taken, even if his delivery does deserve a banning.

Posted by: David at February 7, 2005 09:08 AM

Excellent descriptions - like he "literally, physically, dug his heels into the floor." Great photo, too.

I’m not surprised by the general Iraqi reaction to the "we would not let them take power" bit. I’m a Hitchens fan, totally overwhelmed with envy reading your story, but if Hitch had said something like "we would not let them take power" in relation to Ireland, in his unmistakably British accent, I wouldn’t have been happy. Britain and Iraq, like Britain and most of the world’s population, have a history.

I even had the same reaction when British friends would refer to America as ‘the colonies’. But it’s a temporary thing - good to hear that cooler heads prevailed.

The best quote: Thank you for coming, now please leave and take us with you

European attitudes towards the US are confusing, but Arab attitudes are even more of a puzzle. Reading Iraqi bloggers helps make their attitudes clearer, reading weasel Cole doesn’t. Thanks for giving Hitch ammo to use against him.

And thanks for the 'weasel Cole' phrase - it so fits. Despite their faults, (or maybe because of them?) Brits are the masters of effectively arrogant derision.

Posted by: mary at February 7, 2005 09:11 AM

Amos -- not sure what Amos' point is, so I'm not sure what you consider to be "well-taken." The claim that the life of a GI is worth more than the lives of twenty Arabs?

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 09:32 AM

That last comment was responding to David, not Amos.

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 09:33 AM

Amos is banned.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 10:34 AM

David,

While you and I agree on a great number of issues, and I believe we share a similarly "neo-conservative-like" world view, I'm pretty shocked that you'd take Amos's point.

Were the French and Spanish worthy of intervening in our government had we decided to make George Washington our king, and do away with the silliness of democratic elections? What we've done in Iraq was rightly or wrongly for our own benefit, it just happens to be in our generally decent nature, and also in our best interests, to ensure a peaceful, democratic Arab nation arises from the rubble of Ba'athist Iraq.

Luckily for them this coincides with the interests of the Iraqi people at large. However if the will and desire of the general population of Iraq is not to our designs, well then we don't have much leverage, and certainly no right, to override their will militarily. At that point we essentially gambled and lost.

I do suspect that a democratic, economically and socially progressive Iraq, which is friendly with it's eastern neighbor, may be the only way of reaching Iran anymore. Who knows, it may even be the one thing that finally gives the Reformers the backing and legitimacy they so desparately need to not only regain their presence in Iranian Government, but also tip the scales enough in their favor so as to either force the Mullahs to begin to concede, or resist and force a popular revolution.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 10:55 AM

Don't ban Amos - you'll be accused of anti-semitism.

Posted by: Doctor at February 7, 2005 11:01 AM

Friendly Arabs are the easiest people to bond with I’ve ever met. It takes no time at all to forge friendship if they’re willing – and they so often are.

I can attest to that. They are swell on a personal level. Warm, friendly and gregarious. And generous. But when politics comes up, forget about it. Grownups simply can't be friends anymore when the politics becomes so corrosive.

And regarding Amos, there's a whole lot less there on second reading than the first. I mainly agreed with him that Hitchens didn't feel the need to apologize or hedge, and he had the balls not to. But that valid point is lost under all the other crap Amos loaded his post up with. I certainly don't agree that Michael is a pussy. He wouldn't be in exile if he were.

Posted by: David at February 7, 2005 11:15 AM

Mary, reading Cole helps tremendously in understanding Arab attitudes. You can disagree with the man all you want, but he does know the region very well and his attitude is a very accurate reflection of the way many people in the Middle East think. I think Cole's problem is that he understands the Middle East far too well, absorbs their attitudes as his own and loses sight of the bigger picture. Accusing pro-American Arabs of being in the pay of the CIA is perfectly in line with the way a very large number of Arab intellectuals think. It would be a beautiful world if Omar and Mohammed represented the majority of Arab thinkers, unfortunately there are still many many Attiyahs (and far worse) out there. There's not much to be gained by sticking your head in the sand. Cole is a serious scholar, he is not a Chomsky or a Michael Moore. The way to win against Cole is to marshal facts not resort to name-calling.

Posted by: Vanya at February 7, 2005 11:21 AM

David,

I didn't apologize or hedge either. But I did want to diffuse the fight, which I think I partly did.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 11:23 AM

Vanya - When Arabs disagree with Cole, he accuses them of being CIA agents - and because this is in line with what some "Arab intellectuals" think, you're okay with it?

If Cole also says that Christian families celebrate Christmas by having wild orgies, are we supposed to trust him on that? This is, after all, in accordance with the preaching of some Arab ‘intellectuals’.

If I want to read the sub-moronic prattling of Qutubists and Salafists, I’ll read their websites. There’s no reason to waste time reading Cole’s regurgitated version, under the delusionary banner of ‘Informed Comment’.

Cole represents the worst of the Arab world. Iraq the Model and the Friends of Democracy represent the best, and the most accurate. Unlike Cole, they were right about the elections. Fortunately, I think they do speak for the majority

Posted by: mary at February 7, 2005 11:43 AM

Mary,

I'm not agreeing with Cole. I'm responding to your post saying you wanted to "understand Arab attitudes." Unfortunately I think Cole pretty accurately represents the way a lot of the Arab world thinks.

It's unfair and innacurate to lump Cole in with the Qutubists and Salafists. He's more like Al-Jazeera in that he's probably sincere in his professed dislike of the corrupt dictatorships now running most of the Arab-speaking world, but through an idealistic attachment to pan-Arab ideals and dislike of "American imperialism", he is unwilling to concede that America can play a positive role in the region. Unfortunately a lot of intelligent Arabs who should be our allies are stuck in the same intellectual trap.

Posted by: Vanya at February 7, 2005 11:56 AM

Vanya: "There's not much to be gained by sticking your head in the sand. Cole is a serious scholar, he is not a Chomsky or a Michael Moore. The way to win against Cole is to marshal facts not resort to name-calling"

Point well made, however the assertions of people like Chomsky and Juan Cole are completely non-sensical, regardless of what the CIA did and was capable of in the 1950's, and 1960's, this situation does not exist today. As is evidenced in our botched pre-war intelligence gathering.

Also it should be noted that while he is a left-wing fringe lunatic who represents treasonous views towards the United States, Mr. Noam Chomsky is a scholar. In fact to be precise he is or was an M.I.T. Linguistics Professor and has written a great deal of worthwile work on linquistics.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 11:59 AM

Also it should be noted that while he is a left-wing fringe lunatic who represents treasonous views towards the United States, Mr. Noam Chomsky is a scholar.

"Treasonous views?" You mean thoughtcrime?

I do hope that the extreme political polarization that I see forming hasn't degenerated to the point that people's thinking , writings, or speech are held to be "treasonous." That would be pretty sad.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 7, 2005 12:22 PM

Mary -- I agree with you that reading Iraq the Model is informative. And of course, I admit, along with every other reasonable person, that anyone who disagrees with you in any way is a sub-moronic prattler. But reading Cole WOULD be good for you, because of his links to news about what is going on in Iraq (mostly bad news, but still news) and to what other submoronics -- whom unlike you actually happen to live in the country -- are saying.

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 12:34 PM

Vanya - I read the Qutubists, the Salafists, Al Jazeera and Friends of Democracy. Not too long ago, Jihadists set up shop about a mile from my house. They may still be there. I don’t really think I’m sticking my head in the sand.

I don’t think that the Al Jazeera-esque Professor Cole has much to offer in the way of credible information, but I do read his site. When he’s not completely wrong, he is often unintentionally funny. I like his mood swings and his frequent hysterical denunciations of anyone who disagrees with him. Like People magazine, 'Informed Comment' is best read for entertainment.

Posted by: mary at February 7, 2005 12:36 PM

DPU: I do hope that the extreme political polarization that I see forming hasn't degenerated to the point that people's thinking , writings, or speech are held to be "treasonous"

I didn't say that; there is a difference between holding treasonous views, and committing acts of treason. One is a crime, and one is not. Mr. Chomsky can say and write all that he likes, regardless of how evocative of treason they might be, they are still not treason itself, therefore, as I said, not a crime and not "thoughtcrime".

However, were it to be found that Mr. Chomsky was subverting the U.S. Government's efforts in say Afghanistan, or Iraq, then that would be treason, and criminal, and he would consequently be held accountable.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 12:38 PM

mary writes that "Iraq the Model and the Friends of Democracy ... speak for the majority [of Iraqis]"

This is, I believe, a statement of prediction, which is easily testable.

What results from the election would go to show that Iraq the Model speaks for the majority? I assume this means you predict a victory for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party, or is it that you think that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds views in line with ItM and FoD?

Posted by: FactCheck at February 7, 2005 12:51 PM

Factcheck: I assume this means you predict a victory for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party

Why would you assume this? There is no way his party will win. It will almost certainly be Sistani's party. Anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention knows that.

Sistani's views overlap Omar's and Mohammed's a great deal whether they adhere to the same partisan list or not.

You need a new handle. "Factcheck" is incredibly arrogant and obnoxious.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 01:14 PM

"I didn't say that; there is a difference between holding treasonous views, and committing acts of treason. "

So how do you far right wingers define treason? It is like using the term "terrorist" - it means nothing. For example, if I gave money or information to the "insurgents" you would probably call me a traitor. If I made up lies about the US military to encourage "insurgents" to fight US or Iraqi imperialist forces, you would call me a traitor. Some of us view terrorists, insurgents, freedom fighters, etc. as people with just different points of view. And we should be tolerent to different points of view (yes, even those we disagree with). It is scary to see how closeminded and jackbooted you conservatives are.

Posted by: Amy Q. at February 7, 2005 01:21 PM

Amy Q., if you want to pay for the knife used to saw through a journalist's throat, "traitor" is the least offensive thing I can think of calling you. (Are you for real?)

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 7, 2005 01:25 PM

Amy Q,

I'm a far right-winger for believing that Noam Chomsky represents treasonous views in his writing and speaches? The one and same man who once lauded Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese as a model of "modern society with a high level of general culture"? And accused the U.S. of engaging in a "Silent Genocide" in Afghanistan? That makes me a far right-winger?

And by the way, the word "Terrorist" has a meaning, it's an individual who purposefully invokes terror in others as a means to an end. They do this through MURDER, TORTURE, RAPE, MUTILATION, and OPPRESSION. Guess what Amy, that's quite a bit more than a different point of view, it's inhumane and intolerable. If that makes me a jackbooted conservative in your eyes then you need a serious reality check.

But I guess anything goes when you're fighting the Great Satan, right?

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 01:38 PM

Some of us view terrorists, insurgents, freedom fighters, etc. as people with just different points of view. And we should be tolerant to different points of view (yes, even those we disagree with).

Charming, but you won't get any sympathy from the terrorists. In their eyes, we're all infidels.

Posted by: Shawn at February 7, 2005 01:43 PM

Wow, ask a simple question have your head bitten off, eh?

Could you detail the similarities in viewpoint between Sistani and the ItM crew?

Posted by: FactCheck at February 7, 2005 01:56 PM

Amy Q. is a right-wing troll. No, "she" is not for real.

This is your first and only warning, "Amy." Post your real opinions or post somewhere else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 01:58 PM

FactCheck: Could you detail the similarities in viewpoint between Sistani and the ItM crew?

See here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 02:01 PM

AmyQ - "So how do you far right wingers define treason?"

treason n. 1. Violation of allegiance towards one's country or sovereign, esp. the betrayal of one's own country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies. Am. Her. Dictionary, 2nd College Ed.

You don't need to be a right winger to understand that, just proficient in the English language.

As Al Queda has, by their own words and deeds, declared war upon the USA. American citizens who purposely act to support Al Queda are, by definition, traitors.

An unwillingness to confront those bent on one's destruction is suicidal. Nations are under no obligation to tolerate or countenance those who would author their destruction. This includes enemies both foreign and domestic.

Posted by: charons_oar at February 7, 2005 02:06 PM

Sorry Michael, I shouldn't have indulged her. I think I will be adding "sucker" to my handle.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 7, 2005 02:11 PM

My apologies as well

Posted by: charons_oar at February 7, 2005 02:14 PM

Michael, sorry for rising to "Amy's" bait. I have to admit I envy you immensely just for the opportunity to spend the evening as you did. Excellent work deserves such a reward.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 7, 2005 02:21 PM

My apologies as well.

Posted by: Shawn at February 7, 2005 02:22 PM

No need to apologize.

I can smell a fake lefty from 100 miles away, in part because I've been a real one. Besides, the clicher is the url "Amy" provides as her own - atrios.blogspot.com.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 02:24 PM

Christopher Hitchens?!?

Oh vey, I stopped taking him seriously when he called Holocaust-denier David Irving a "great historian".

What a pathetic clown.

Posted by: novakant at February 7, 2005 02:25 PM

So how do you far right wingers define treason? It is like using the term "terrorist" - it means nothing.

Sadly, Amy does have a point. It's one that I've harped on again and again.Use the Right Word, not its Second Cousin (Props to Mark Twain).

When we use words like "Terrorist" to blanket every act of violence in Iraq, we fool ourselves. While there are certianly acts of terrorism being commited, there are also (and apparently quite a higher number) of straight-up insurgent attacks. These aren't 'terrorists', they're pissed off Sunnis. There's a difference.

The same is true of "treason", if an individual is not
a) At War with the United States
b) directly adhering to the Enemies of The US by giving Aid and Comfort.

then the person IS NOT guilty of Treason. In the United States, there is NO such thing as 'treasonous thought'. In fact, Chief Justice Marshall (during the Burr Trial) stated:

"However flagitious may be the crime of conspiring to subvert by force the government of our country, such conspiracy is not treason. To conspire to levy war, and actually to levy war, are distinct offences. The first must be brought into open action by the assemblage of men for a purpose treasonable in itself, or the fact of levying war cannot have been committed. So far has this principle been carried, that . . . it has been determined that the actual enlistment of men to serve against the government does not amount to levying of war."

Yes, in the US, according the US Supreme Court, ACTION MUST BE TAKEN FOR TREASON TO EXIST.

So far, neither Noam Chomksy, Michael Moore, or anyone else on the Left that gets tarred with "Treason" on a bi-weekly basis, have done anything approximating raising an Army against the country.

In fact, neither do they meet the requirement for "aiding and giving comfort". These require specific aids in steps essential to the enemy's design for treason. In other words, if Michael Moore opened his home to terrorists and got them rental cars to use while scoping out NYC for an attack... then he would be a traitor. Up to that point, he is an American exercising his freedom to dissent with the government.

It saddens me to see Americans become so polarized that they miss the main import of what American is. We're so ready to export our FREEDOM, while at the same time, we smear and slur people that exercise the God Damned Freedom That Everyone Keeps Crowing About!

In the United States, we can, without fear of Treason, speak against the President, all senators, all members of the millitary and any American who voted for Bush. We can rant, rave, and even wish them dead. We can tell the world that they are evil capitalists and STILL BE AN AMERICAN.

Calling Noam Chomsky a Traitor (or saying that he says traitorus things) is simply false. In the United States, treason is a very narrowly defined word. In fact, it's so narrowly defined that only 2 or 3 of the many cases of treason have ever actually stuck.

(Even the Confederacy got away without being convicted of treason.)

It doesn't take a lot to use the correct word... Sure, dissident may not sound as damning as Traitor and Insurgent may not sound as EVIL as TERRORIST. At the end of the day, however, you're using the wrong word.

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 7, 2005 02:25 PM

One more thing about Juan Cole, and other U.S. leftists. Not only do they echo some of the same things said by Islamic extremists, they also echo many of the same things that Mideast liberals and moderates are saying.

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 02:33 PM

Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough if, as the article says that, as some suspect "Sistani is a closet theocrat whose democratic arguments will quickly melt when he is close to power."

Let's all hope and pray we kicked out Saddam for Khatami and not Khomeini.

Posted by: FactCheck at February 7, 2005 02:42 PM

On "Terrorism" - Clearly every act of violence in Iraq is not terrorism. Placing IEDs against Coalition forces is the act of an irregular; and, since the Iraqi gov't capitulated two years ago and it cannot be viewed as a nation-to-nation struggle but as an insurgency; the term most people correctly use these days. Likewise targeting infrastructure such as the electrical grid could also be labeled as an insurgency; however, the deliberate targeting of non-combatants (the Iraqi civilians) for the prupose of instilling fear in the general populace is clearly terrorism. As such, while not all acts of violence in Iraq are acts of terrosm, some clearly are and one could legitimately label the perpetrators as "terrorists".

On "Traitor" - Ratatosk, I largely agree with you on this point. In order to be a "traitor" one would have to purposely support groups that took actions intending to overthrow the USA government through non-constitutional means.

Arguing against USA foreign policy is not only not treason, it is a necessary hedge against tyranny. However, when the nation is at war (and make no mistake about it, Al Queda is at war with us whether we wish it or no) knowingly providing support for Al Queda, such as recruitment or financial aid, is treason.

Posted by: charons_oar at February 7, 2005 02:53 PM

Calling Noam Chomsky a Traitor (or saying that he says traitorus things) is simply false.

Tosk,

no it isn't. I looked up the word 'treason' in the dictionary and there was a picture of Chomsky next to it, along with the actual definition which fits him like a glove:

Treason: "Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies."

Chomsky consciously and purposely aids our enemies, and he's a traitor. The key word here is that he must act, and that is the only reason why he isn't prosecutable. He's just talking, so he's allowed to walk free. But he's still a traitor. Like the folks at NAMBLA, they're all child molesters, but they won't be prosecuted until they're caught in the act. Chomsky the traitor is the same thing.

Posted by: Carlos at February 7, 2005 02:55 PM

Carlos -- But Chomsky words do inspire action: he inspires people to march in the street in support of immediate withdrawal in Iraq for instance. Some of those marchers even carry signs explicitely supporting terrorists. Those signs are then beamed around the world, inspiring those terrorists.

Chomsky gives aid and comfort to the enemy. AS IS HIS RIGHT UNDER OUR CONSTITUTION!

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 03:30 PM

Chomsky gives aid and comfort to the enemy. AS IS HIS RIGHT UNDER OUR CONSTITUTION!

That may be so. Does that make him any less a traitor?

If the crime of child molestation is legalized tommorow, does that make a child molester any less a child molester?

Posted by: Carlos at February 7, 2005 03:41 PM

OT: I'd just like to point out that the first example used "if I gave money or information to the "insurgents" you would probably call me a traitor" would not make 'Amy Q' an American traitor, but if she were an Iraqi, she would be an Iraqi traitor.

On Topic: Michael, I am suffering a severe case of envy. Sounds like a fascinating evening. Hitchens is someone I disagree with on a number of points but also someone whose mind I greatly respect.

Posted by: Kathy K at February 7, 2005 03:52 PM

Shorter Michael Totten: Hey, I got drunk with a drunk. Hilarity ensued. Gosh I wish my brain was as pickled as his is.

Posted by: Jon Gallagher at February 7, 2005 03:53 PM

We then met Mr.Haydar Nazar, candidate on the list of the Shiite Political Council, who told us: the main feature of democracy is accepting results, congratulating the winners and helping them in their new duties. No candidate has the right to create trouble if he did not get the majority of votes. The voters decide on who gets the seats. The parties have nothing to do with it.---Friends of Democracy

Who would have thought that a candidate in Najaf would make more sense than many of our 'enlightened'political leaders.Can we just switch candidates for the next elections? Well at least can we send over the Democratic Party just so the Iraqis really appreciate their new system,and their home-grown candidates, properly?

Posted by: dougf at February 7, 2005 03:57 PM

Well at least can we send over the Democratic Party just so the Iraqis really appreciate their new system,and their home-grown candidates, properly?

"We"? You're in Canada, right Doug?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 7, 2005 04:01 PM

"We"? You're in Canada, right Doug?--DPU

Oh now that is unkind,and uncalled for.And here I am making a determined mental effort to ignore that inconvenient and unfortunate circumstance.The Canada that I am really a part of no longer truly exists,so I consider myself a citizen of North America,who just by accident is located in a rather delusional part of the whole.

Posted by: dougf at February 7, 2005 04:14 PM

John Gallagher: Shorter Michael Totten: Hey, I got drunk with a drunk. Hilarity ensued. Gosh I wish my brain was as pickled as his is.

This is your first and only troll warning. We aren't in high school here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 04:19 PM

Oh now that is unkind,and uncalled for.And here I am making a determined mental effort to ignore that inconvenient and unfortunate circumstance.The Canada that I am really a part of no longer truly exists,so I consider myself a citizen of North America,who just by accident is located in a rather delusional part of the whole.

Sounds a lot like you want out of Confederation. Gary Doer getting you down?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 7, 2005 04:35 PM

Yer a mensch, Michael. If you ever get the chance to go to Germany, try to go during wine fest season in the early fall. You cannot imagine the hangover you get from drinking two bottles of extremely young, sweet white wine -- closest I can describe is it feels like somebody took a hot glue gun and filled up your sinuses with it -- but the Mosel valley is beautiful and the people very friendly (or were back in '88 anyway. Who knows,maybe someday once again.)

Posted by: joe at February 7, 2005 04:46 PM

Despite our spat with the Iraqis (and who knows, perhaps in part because of that fight)

Yeah.

For decades, Iraqis lived in fear of Saddam, building him up into some unstoppable bogeyman.

Then we come along and get rid of him.

I think a lot of Iraqis are embarassed they didn't do it themselves- some outsiders had to do it for them. And we made it look easy.

That's gotta sting.

Posted by: rosignol at February 7, 2005 04:51 PM

Impressive account, Michael.

You do wonder whether Hitchens is more aware of the blog thing than he let on. I suspect that feigning a particular lack of knowledge is one of the best tools he has available to him of determining where someone is coming from and what conscious and unconscious biases they may possess.

Just a thought.

Posted by: RattlerGator at February 7, 2005 04:59 PM

“When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia,” Hitchens said, “they murdered the czar, his wife, and his children…so there would be no going back. Are you sure that’s what you want?"

What??? And you agreed with him? Hello? the Czar wasn't given a trial. Remember? Saddam will be. See the difference? You must have been drunk Michael. But what's Hitchen's excuse? He's immune to the stuff.

So basically moral confusion abounds, and it's basically a faux morality pulled out of a hat, feel good about ourselves morality, vapid and vacuous and nonsensical and it's coming from the Left primarily I've noticed. And we're letting it get to us. We're going to let Saddam go so we don't look like Bolsheviks? It' unbelievable. Truly, I'm flabbergasted.

Michael, you need to grow a spine. We need to terminate Saddam with extreme prejudice, and nip this madness in the bud. Enough is enough. Too many lives are being lost.

Posted by: Carlos at February 7, 2005 05:13 PM

Michael, I'm wondering if you remember any more of what the Arabs were saying, their actual words. (Really too bad no tape player for that first hour.)

I understand you were trying to diffuse the situation (...happy occassion). But what did they want they they're not getting/ didn't get with the elections/ didn't get with the Liberation (/Occupation)?
“So you’re my colonial master now, eh?!”
I DO think a lot of Iraqs prefer domination by an Arab monster like Saddam, to Western Secular freedom; but in particular, they reject any inferior status.

"Who are you to tell us what to do?!!!"
Who was it who said, "Who do I have to be?" -- the US (+UK + Coalition) who booted out Saddam; something the Iraqi people were unable/ unwilling to do by themselves (though betrayed by Bush 41 "read my lips").

There was an article about a proud Iraqi woman, who hated the sight of American soldiers -- because they reminded her she needed them for her own freedom. (In NYT a month ago?)

I want to know more about this emotion. It's underlying a huge amount of rage.

Winning Iraqi hearts and minds for a democracy that the US people can support requires that Iraqis support more Human Rights than they've ever experienced.

You answered nicely: "nothing to do with us telling you what to do and everything to do with fighting fascism wherever in the world it exists."

Nicely but not totally honestly -- telling them NO to fascism, IS telling them what not to do. No less than Christians saying NO to gay marriage IS telling gays what not to do.

(Any discussion on the abortion/ homosexual culture wars the US is having?)

"more money and food once you got there" -- it's the Liberation's fault that Iraq has so little? Or more rage that the Arabs can't stop their own terrorist death squads. Or using the rage to justify blaming the rescuers for the far less than ideal effortless paradise.

Hitch is right that money and food is not the issue, but neither is it whether Iraqis can be bought with it.

Iraqis, quite likely like teens, will have to show themselves their independence of US control/ influence. I wonder what stupid thing(s) their elected leaders will do to demonstrate that no black woman is gonna tell them what to do; nor any Texan.

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 7, 2005 05:32 PM

great article, except-
"Donovan is an eminently reasonable person (he grew up in Holland)"

ooh!! HOLLAND!!!!!

...laffin'.

Posted by: fingerinthedike at February 7, 2005 05:39 PM

<9"When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia,” Hitchens said, “they murdered the czar, his wife, and his children…so there would be no going back. Are you sure that’s what you want?"
I sighed. It was a hell of a point, and I was too drunk to come up with a response.

Shee-it. Even drunk, I would have remembered how we wasted Uday, Qusay, and Hussein's 14 year old grandson. "Hey, we got three down already! Woo hoo! America, FUCK YEAH!"

Posted by: kc at February 7, 2005 06:28 PM

Tosk: In the interest of perspicuity is it plausible to posit that Chomsky is perhaps perfidious?

Just wondering :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 7, 2005 06:30 PM

I will be not be the first to admit it - but I am in line - to say that if al Sistani has in fact been practicing the ancient Muslim art of taqiyyah - deception in the service of spreading fundamentalist Islam - then I am a sucker. That's what I'm thinking right about now. Otherwise I'm pretty much just holding my breath..

Posted by: Caroline at February 7, 2005 07:04 PM

I will be not be the first to admit it - but I am in line - to say that if al Sistani has in fact been practicing the ancient Muslim art of taqiyyah - deception in the service of spreading fundamentalist Islam - then I am a sucker. That's what I'm thinking right about now. Otherwise I'm pretty much just holding my breath--Caroline

The only sucker in the event that the Grand Ayatollah is playing us for fools,would be the Grand Ayatollah.We have really nothing to lose since the experiment was supposed to fail anyway,whereas he would lose EVERYTHING,either at once or later when the Sunni regimes in the area worked to devide Iraq and persecute the Shias.
I think the Grand Ayatollah is a brilliant tactician and fundamentally a 'decent'man.
Don't worry------Be Happy !!

Posted by: dougf at February 7, 2005 07:22 PM

Dougf: "We have really nothing to lose since the experiment was supposed to fail anyway"

Come again?

BTW - Dougf - but I am curious - do you have a beard? - still working on that Canadian bus image :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 7, 2005 07:29 PM

Who payed for dinner at the Palm and hours of drinks at the Four Seasons hotel bar? I am assuming Jim Hake. Excuse me for asking but I can't help but feel there is something not quite right about Jim Hake raising money for the Iraqis (off the sights of lots of bloggers) and then using it to put himself and staff up at the most expensive hotel in Washington. I'm not suggesting Motel 6 and McDonalds, but the extent of the luxury is inappropriate,IMO, when the money should be going to the cause of the Iraqis.

Posted by: Just wondering at February 7, 2005 07:56 PM

Ha! That is the funniest shit I've read in along time. Almost impossible to believe that it's not parody:

“Angel,” he said. “Can I call you angel?”

“Of course,” I said. (Did he actually say that? – ed. I think so, but keep in mind I was drunk.)

“I want to exploit your knowledge of blogs,” he said.

Ha ha ha. Thanks for posting that. You righties (eagles? pro-invasion leftists?) are so funny!

Democracy! Hitchen's Liver! Weird subtext!

Posted by: Bubba at February 7, 2005 07:56 PM

"Nicely but not totally honestly -- telling them NO to fascism, IS telling them what not to do. No less than Christians saying NO to gay marriage IS telling gays what not to do."

Tom? Tom Gray?

I come here to enjoy a wonderful tale of intellectual travel punctuated by a wee bit of worthwhile debauchery followed by a healthy dose of considered comment and somebody ups and runs screaming, nude, off the balcony into the pool.

Telling the Iraqis what to do is fascism?

Our elected government decided that our ten- plus years of active involvement with Saddam F. Hussein was enough when framed against the world after 9/11.

Now there's almost, what, almost thirty million people who have no tradition of self government beyond tribalism? Who live next door to the probably next stop in the war on terror?

We freed them to remove a threat. That's in our interest. They are in process to become a democracy - maybe. The options open to the Iraqis are manifold. I hope for good things. We can't compel them to choose the government we want. We can hold out the ring, and we have.

They must choose.

That's the big risk here. Not political but life and death risk. I wouldn't have bet on Iraq wanting to be a democracy, not if I were president. I'm not big enough a man. But I can see where it could work. It would have been nice to have a more unified public voice from our side to reinforce the effort, but(with apologies to Rumsfeld) you cannot choose the fecund remnant of a dying minority party and it's failed philosophy you want when you go to war - you just go with the one you've got.

The Iraqis are forming their interim government after elections. The faction that has adopted murder as a strategy declined to field candidates. Hell, even the Sunnis from areas where it was too dangerous to vote are asking for late consideration to place delegates.

Our guys and gals head out every day to patrol, resupply, and continue reconstruction. Their presence - and our almost daily losses - are what Iraqis see firsthand. I feel pretty good about that.

Oops, getting longish. All done.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 7, 2005 08:04 PM

Tom GrEy. My apologies, sir.

So it's fascist to ask for legislative debate on an institutional change affecting the fabric of our society - but not, I guess, for the mayors of large urban centers to go ahead and dictate law to suit themselves?

I must get a more current dictionary. I'll put my banjo in the corner and do juuuuust that...

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 7, 2005 08:09 PM

Who payed for dinner at the Palm and hours of drinks at the Four Seasons hotel bar? I am assuming Jim Hake. Excuse me for asking but I can't help but feel there is something not quite right about Jim Hake raising money for the Iraqis (off the sights of lots of bloggers) and then using it to put himself and staff up at the most expensive hotel in Washington. I'm not suggesting Motel 6 and McDonalds, but the extent of the luxury is inappropriate,IMO, when the money should be going to the cause of the Iraqis.

None of the money raised by Spirit of America paid for the event or the dinner.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 08:15 PM

By event I assume you're referring to the CSPAN program. Good to know about the dinner, but as I wrote, I was also troubled by the hotel accomodations. I would assume they were (and should be) covered by Spirit of America. But the choice of the ultra expensive Four Seasons leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Surely you can see why. Please correct me if I am in error.

Posted by: Just wondering at February 7, 2005 08:28 PM

"Hello, my dear," Hitchens said. "We missed you this evening."

Fantastic.

Good job Michael. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Posted by: David at February 7, 2005 08:36 PM

Michael:

Given that you now have a line of communication with Hitchens, perhaps you could ask him about what he now thinks of David Irving, now that Irving has failed in his attempt to sue Deborah Lipstadt for libel (she called him a Holocaust denier and an anti-semite, and he sued in a UK court, and lost). Hitchens was a defender of Irving in the past, and I wonder if recent events have caused him to change his mind about Irving, and rethink his previous defense of Irving. (For some background, see this article: http://www.salon.com/books/review/2005/02/07/lipstadt/index.html)

This isn't trolling or an attempt to discredit Hitchens on my part. I genuinely have never understood why someone like Hitchens would possibly want to stand up for the likes of Irving. Hitchens' defense of Irving went well beyond a bland Voltaireian support for Irving's right to say what he thinks. Now that you have Hitchens' ear, perhaps you can engage him in a discussion on the subject.

Posted by: mistermark at February 7, 2005 08:52 PM

I was also troubled by the hotel accomodations

I don't know for certain who paid for the hotel. But it was only 150 dollars a night on weekends. We did not stay at the Four Seasons, we stayed at a Marriot. Really, though, I don't think SoA paid for it. The whole shebang had another financial backer. I don't know who it was because I didn't ask. You charity $ were not used.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 09:15 PM

MisterMark,

I already know what Hitchens thinks of Irving. He thinks he's a fascist, and he said so in the very article that got him "in trouble." If you know anything at all about Christopher Hitchens, you know what he thinks of fascism. I think you can connect these two dots.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 09:18 PM

OK, drinks and dinner at The Palm -- one of D.C.'s most expensive restaurants -- followed by drinks at "our hotel" (The Four Seasons) -- one of D.C.'s most expensive lodgings.

Who paid for all this board and booze?

Posted by: Solomon2 at February 7, 2005 09:22 PM

Solomon2,

I just answered that question. See three posts up.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 09:23 PM

Also, Solomon2, we didn't stay at the Four Seasons. I don't know where anyone got the idea that we did. I don't even know where that hotel is or anything else about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2005 09:24 PM

Re: Amos

Don't ban him. Amos is no troll. He made his points rudely, but they are relevant. His attitude makes what he says difficult to accept for most people and his opinion about the relative value of Iraqi vs. American lives was unfounded and unnecessary -- yet that same attitude may shock some people into a greater awareness of the issues.

His conclusion, "You'd rather be liked than right" does point out, IMO, a major weakness of Americans generally and Mr. T. in particular.

Posted by: Solomon2 at February 7, 2005 09:41 PM

MJT: the thought that you must have stayed at the Four Seasons originated with me. To the best of my knowledge, that is the only bar in D.C. open until 2am on a Monday morning. And I thought Marriotts always closed their bars early (I used to work for the company).

It has been a decade since I paid attention to such matters, however, and I concede my information is out-of-date. My apologies.

Posted by: Solomon2 at February 7, 2005 09:47 PM

His conclusion, "You'd rather be liked than right" does point out, IMO, a major weakness of Americans generally and Mr. T. in particular.

Agreed. I saw that too. But I think Liberals (and perhaps even ex-Liberals) have a need for the approval of others that more conservative Americans don't.

Posted by: David at February 7, 2005 09:49 PM

Vanya :

"The way to win against Cole is to marshal facts not resort to name-calling."

And yet Cole resorts to name-calling all the time, almost to the point of parody. He is really going off the deep end. When I first heard of Cole and read his essays I actually thought it was fairly balanced. Nowadays he's just "whatever the conservatives isn't saying, I'll say".

He made a few terrible predictions/calls (eg. 30% voter turnout in Iraq, Iraq the Model is a CIA outfit, amongst others) so frankly I think his so-called expertise is overhyped. Besides, he is hardly the only guy that knows something about the middle east. But the left loves him because he feeds them their daily "doom and gloom" which help them to validate their opposition to the Iraq war.

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 7, 2005 10:33 PM

Ah, now I remember a rather seedy Marriott that did indeed have an ill-lit bar that stayed open until the wee hours of the morning -- not in D.C., but a long walk or short Metro trip just over the river in Virginia. $150/night sounds about right...once again, I apologize for any trouble...

Posted by: Solomon2 at February 7, 2005 10:36 PM

Michael, I'm a big fan of Hitchens. He is amazingly intelligent. He's also hard-headed - in a good way - which is why I enjoy his writing more than his TV appearances. His apparent inability to do TV-friendly rhetoric (something I admire, but something I fear may rub the casual observer the wrong way) makes him appear a little confrontational sometimes. Thank God his English accent take some of the edge off. LOL.

One thing is for certain though - nobody can doubt his heart is in the right place, and that he knows what he's talking about. I first became a fan of Hitch in my far-left days, which is why it was such a welcome surprise to discover that Hitch is on board with the liberation of Iraq.

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 7, 2005 10:49 PM

Great post!

I have often thought that if Hitch would write a bit more like Blair he'd be much more effective and reach a much wider audience.

He must get too much pleasure in the thrilling aspects of ornate verbal warfare and not enough in terse simple direct declarations.

And he has - IMHO - many MANY blindspots - holdovers from his leftwing past which he refuses to outgrow. This - like his over-fondness of ornate lingo - is alkl that holds him back from reaching tru SUPERSTAR STATUS / Orwellian/Camusian status.

But still: one of the BEST of the BEST.

Your profile was great. Thanks

Posted by: reliapundit at February 7, 2005 11:00 PM

Great post!

I have often thought that if Hitch would write a bit more like Blair he'd be much more effective and reach a much wider audience.

He must get too much pleasure in the thrilling aspects of ornate verbal warfare and not enough in terse simple direct declarations.

And he has - IMHO - many MANY blindspots - holdovers from his leftwing past which he refuses to outgrow. This - like his over-fondness of ornate lingo - is all that holds him back from reaching true SUPERSTAR STATUS / Orwellian/Camusian status.

But still: one of the BEST of the BEST.

Your profile was great. Thanks

Posted by: reliapundit at February 7, 2005 11:00 PM

But I think Liberals (and perhaps even ex-Liberals) have a need for the approval of others that more conservative Americans don't.

I think it's more that conservatism lends itself more easily to misanthropy than liberalism. When you don't much care for anyone else, it's easier to forget that someone else, somewhere is right more often than you are.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 8, 2005 01:57 AM

Kimmitt,

Once I might have agreed with you. But this war has changed that. My left-wing, liberal friends couldn't give a rat's arse about the Iraqi people. Some of them were more upset about the looting of the museum than they were about the unearthing of slaughtered women and children from mass graves. Others have told me, with straight faces, that life wasn't that bad under Saddam. And that blank look they give me when I tell them some of the horror stories I've heard from Iraqi exiles drives me crazy.

Underlying it all is garden-variety anti-Americanism, and the understandable belief that we are less safe (in Australia) now than we were before the Iraq war. This is what really concerns them. Their own safety.

Give me a compassionate conservative any day.

MJT,

Hitch really gets up people's noses, doesn't he? I love that about him.

Posted by: Fish at February 8, 2005 03:05 AM

Great post, great blog.

Posted by: Fausta at February 8, 2005 05:19 AM

Hmmm, was the photo of Hitchens in your piece really necessary? I'm having my lunch, for goodness sake!

Posted by: Shuggy at February 8, 2005 05:21 AM

TmjUtah: I come here to enjoy a wonderful tale of intellectual travel punctuated by a wee bit of worthwhile debauchery followed by a healthy dose of considered comment and somebody ups and runs screaming, nude, off the balcony into the pool.

You always provide for the most compelling visuals. : )

Posted by: Mike T. at February 8, 2005 05:23 AM

How is it possible for Professor Cole to truly undertand the "Arab street" when that street was paved by what Natan Sharansky called "doublethink", saying all the right things in public but behind closed doors a whole other world exists.

Posted by: susan at February 8, 2005 05:53 AM

I think it's more that conservatism lends itself more easily to misanthropy than liberalism. When you don't much care for anyone else, it's easier to forget that someone else, somewhere is right more often than you are.

Kimmit,

When you seek to do what's right, damning the torpedoes, you don't have to "care." Being right results in the most good for all involved, it lifts the boats even of those you claim we don't care about.

I think Iraq is a pretty good example of that.

But when you seek to be liked by others (the prime motivating factor of a Lib), and when approval is your drive in life, then all the "caring" in the world isn't going to help anybody if you keep getting it wrong. Thus, "caring", turns out to be nothing but an exercise in self-absorption.

For a good example of that, see Michael's latest post on activista lemming protestors. It doesn't matter to them if they damage their cause, so long as they "care," and that's all that matters. They want people to know they "care." Are they right? They don't have to be. That's the beauty of it. They can be wrong over and over again, and still "care."

I'm willing to bet being right benefits all those people you claim we don't care about more than seeking approval benefits them.

Posted by: Carlos at February 8, 2005 06:00 AM

You talk about wanting Sadam dead because of the thousands he has killed. The minimum Civilian deaths in Iraq (caused by us) is 15,654, and that is mostly Women and Children.
http://www.iraqbodycount.net.

There is a report that the number is closer to 100,000. http://www.thelancet.com/journal/
vol364/iss9446/early_online_publication

Lets just stick with the lesser number. That is about 5 times the number killed in NY. We all know that American lives are "worth more". They must be because we talk about them all the time but NEVER about the civilians killed in Iraq.

This invasion was ploted long befor 911 to protect ISREAL by Wolfowitz, Pearl, "Scooter" libby and that group along with the oil people for there agenda.

To get people to go along with war you need a villain. Pol Pot was 100 times worse than Sadam yet he had no oil and was no threat to Israel.

Why not stop watching FOX and start investigating the real truth as found on the internet and not controlled news.

A word to the wise, get off the alcohol, you lose any credibility you may have.

tjones.

Posted by: Bin There at February 8, 2005 06:02 AM

Bin There,

I don't expect you'll read this. Loonies like you show up and drop your bombs, and are never heard from again. It's not a complaint.

But the Lancet estimated those killed at between 15,000 and 100,000. That's an 85 point margin of error. I could come up with a more accurate estimate sitting in my living room. Why would you quote us such drivel?

And does your body count website from which you get your 15,654 figure not mention that included in that number are Iraqi combatants and those killed by suicide bombers? And is there even a whisper on your body count website about the approximately 300,000 Iraqis killed by Saddam? Then your 15K number may turn out to be an actual REDUCTION in the killing.

I'm confident that you are completely unaware of the fact that but for the more "caring" types such as yourself, Saddam would still be bulldozing bodies into mass graves.

Re "Israel". Fantastic. I'm all for giving them a leg up. That's what friends are for.

Posted by: Carlos at February 8, 2005 06:30 AM

Michael, thank you so much for answering my questions about the finances. I am glad that Jim Hake seems to have started concerning himself more with such matters. It was because I knew that in the past he did not that I was disturbed. If, for example, you knew that he had flown first class on the same flight that he put the Irag the Model brothers (and members of his own organization) in coach, I'm certain you would have been distressed as well.

Posted by: Just wondering at February 8, 2005 07:05 AM

“If you wanted more Iraqi support,” Atiyyah bellowed at Hitchens,” you should have given us more money and food once you got there!”

“So you’re saying, sir, that you can be bought,” Hitchens shot back.

I appreciate your honesty, but in my mind, this is not a very flattering portrayal of Hitchens. Am I the only one to think, rather strongly, that this was not the right answer?

Posted by: Ted Barlow at February 8, 2005 07:20 AM

Ted, what was the right answer, thanks.

Posted by: Carlos at February 8, 2005 07:22 AM

The right answer is, "You're right, we should have done that." It's incredibly insulting to call humanitarian aid and support for nascent Iraqi institutions some kind of bribe.

Hearts and minds, folks. As of very recently, it wasn't a controversial strategy.

Posted by: Ted Barlow at February 8, 2005 07:29 AM

Great story! What an interesting way to pass a Sunday evening! Next time you get to DC let me know. I work on M street right between The Palm, and the nearest Marriott (the one Blackie's steakhouse is next to.) I'll clue you in to some good places to go late at night! ;) Just cut me in on some of that good dinner company!

Also, Susan? You're right on about the "Arab Street". That street runs through a totalitarian neighborhood. The Arab Andrei Sakharov exists somewhere, If the US works hard enough to link it's foreign policy towards Arab freedoms, then perhaps the Arab Sakharov will make himself known. The strident anti-Semitism emanating from the "Arab Street" strikes me as the work of D.I.C. :) (Despot In Charge)...instead of the real perceptions and feelings of the common Arab.

-z

Posted by: rikzilla at February 8, 2005 07:32 AM

Hearts and minds, folks. As of very recently, it wasn't a controversial strategy.

You're right. Hearts and minds.

But Hitchen's point was not that food aid is a bribe, but that this Attiyah fellow considers it a bribe and wanted more of it.

Posted by: Carlos at February 8, 2005 07:34 AM

The strident anti-Semitism emanating from the "Arab Street" strikes me as the work of D.I.C. :) (Despot In Charge)...instead of the real perceptions and feelings of the common Arab.

Wishful thinking. The Arabs living in Europe and America don't need a despot to hate jews.

Posted by: Carlos at February 8, 2005 07:36 AM

Bin There nicely encapsulates the arguments of the far left. I suspect that Juan Cole, deep down, agrees. The military, early on, commented on a "room service" syndrome by the Iraqis. Some of the people at the dinner seem to be so afflicted. Some of it is the overestimation of what America is capable of. Some is the reaction of people who had no economy but that of Saddam for 30 years.

In Max Hastings' book "Overlord" he comments that the French behaved in much the same manner, in spite of newsreel film trying to show gratitude. They still do but, of course, they are French. Perhaps we can hope for more from the Iraqis.

The war was an enormous gamble for Bush but I believe there was no good alternative. The fact that he was willing to take it speaks well for him and has made me a supporter when I wasn't in the 2000 primaries.

The Shiites must know that this is their chance of a millenium. I'm sure Sistani does. Those who assume that Iran will take over know nothing of Middle East history. They don't speak the same language, for one thing. The Iraqis can spot Iranian agents like we can spot Mexican illegal aliens. If they think they are really going to be free to rule themselves, I believe they will expel the Iranians. The same goes for the other foreigners although the Sunni are losing and the Shia are winning.

All the arguments about disbanding the army and allowing looting and force size are worth debating but that does not mean the choices were wrong at the time. The army officers were Baathists and the enlisted were Shia. There were no Shia officers as I understand it.

The term Imperialism implies that we want to stay and rule. That's what imperialists do. I don't see that happening. Other than the Philippines, in an era when colonialism was the norm, we have never sought colonies to exploit them as the European powers did in the 19th century. That was part of the mercantilist economic system that didn't work. We now know better. I'm reading Hague's biography of the Younger Pitt. Pitt hated going to war with France because he was concerned with prosperity at home. Bush began the same way.

Posted by: Mike K at February 8, 2005 07:47 AM

You can smoke in bars and even restaurants in DC, but not in New York. Ergo, DC > NYC.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at February 8, 2005 08:45 AM

Apropos of fighting to get closer, back in the mid 80s I was running a software-related engineering program for the defense sector in a middle Eastern country that will go unamed. I dreaded the periodic visits from my counterparts. They went around me, demanded things directly of my staff, were rude, condescending and obnoxious.

Finally one day I had enough and was prepared to quit my job on the spot since the President of the company was unable or unwilling to deal with them. Before I did, however, I called them into a meeting, shut the door and began reaming them out. I shouted, I paced and I banged on the friggin' table. And I watched them watch this wild American lady and thought, "if just one of them smiles their supercilious smile he may not get out of here intact."

When I wound down - more out of breath than out of anger - they buzzed in their own language for a while and then the leader got up, smiled and said warmly, " Ah, so now you take this project seriously, no? Now we can work together my friend!!"

I still wanted to kill them and the project was still contentious. But they never once went around me again and we had some honest, fair negotiations after that.

Needless to say I did NOT use that technique on my Japanese customers that year.

Posted by: Robin Burk at February 8, 2005 12:18 PM

Regarding the us actions to deny a taliban type regime in iraq after the elections. Its NOT imperialism, and to argue that it does is simply ignorant, shortsighted, and inflammatory. We were at the same crossroads at one time in our history. Right after the revolutionary war, many people wanted to make Washington king, and use the army to sieze power (many of his junior officers advocated this very thing). Men who were in charge at the time (including Washington) realized that a bloody and terrible war had just been fought, to ESCAPE the type of tyranny some were now advocating. And to allow that to occur, would be to effectively piss all over the memories and sacrifices of those who died fighting england. Likewise, Washington VOLUNTARILY stepped down as President after two terms. The ULTIMATE abdication of power. Bloodless, and without conflict. THAT is when someone can be defined as a TRUE "freedom fighter." If you achieve "freedom" from tyranny, and then immediately install the same tyranny with a different name, you have accomplished nothing than killing a bunch of people. That is why people like castro and stuff are NOT real "freedom fighters." There is more to the definition of the word "freedom" than "freedom from tyranny of X." It also means freedom from ALL tyranny. To allow a taliban type regime to be "elected" in iraq, is not what we were fighting against. We are fighting against tyranny (or more specifically, a strain of fascism), and to trade one tyrant (Saddam) for another (a mob rule elected theocracy), is failure. And we will not allow failure.

Posted by: tsw at February 8, 2005 12:24 PM

When you seek to do what's right, damning the torpedoes, you don't have to "care."

Well, yes, there is the moral absolutism that also defines the conservative movement. "Whatever I'm doing now, no matter how contradictory to what I did previously or will do tomorrow, is the absolute right thing to do, and anyone who disagrees with me is immoral." It's a fine way to win arguments, but a particularly facile and immature way to craft policy.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 8, 2005 01:06 PM

And that blank look they give me when I tell them some of the horror stories I've heard from Iraqi exiles drives me crazy.

The blank look can be described as follows:

"This sort of horror is endemic to the world and has been for the past fifty years. Why in God's name is the Iraqi situation unique, and where the hell has the conservative concern for human rights been for the past fifty years?"

Look, we know better. The human rights concerns just are not the primary ones of the policymakers. If they were, we'd be talking about intervention in the Congo, Sudan, and Myanmar, and we're just not. If they were, we wouldn't have sposored Iraq against Iran in the first place. If they were, we'd have done something during Anfal, instead of using it, after the fact, as a propaganda point for invasion.

It's like the Social Security debate. Nobody's talking about actually addressing the problems that cause African American men to live so much shorter lives. Instead, y'all are using it as a rhetorical club to try to push your favorite policy. The blank look is incomprehension as to why we're the world's policemen on Tuesday and the world's shining city on a hill on Wednesday.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 8, 2005 01:11 PM

"This sort of horror is endemic to the world and has been for the past fifty years. Why in God's name is the Iraqi situation unique, and where the hell has the conservative concern for human rights been for the past fifty years?"

But Kimmit:

for about the millionth time, we didn't go in for for our concern for human rights. We went in to further our national interests. Democracy furthers our interest in the middle east, HERE and NOW. I don't see the inconsistency you're talking about.

But you, how to explain your current disregard for human rights? There's only one explanation:

---"BUSH."

LOL! you Libs make me laugh sometimes.

Posted by: Carlos at February 8, 2005 01:41 PM

When Mr. Hitchens said "We won't allow that,"
It makes me wonder. Whether or not they get the bomb,
Iran looks like they're headed in our direction.
Maybe only a government with some animosity towards us will be seen as independent enough to be accepted in that part of the world. They'd still come back. Whose movies would they watch, after all.
So why bother to flex in front of our guests? I think it's the inability to see 1) our ends might be better achieved that way and 2) our invasion may in the long run produce a greater horror than Saddam that's offensive.

Posted by: James at February 8, 2005 02:59 PM

I too have long been a stalker - err, an admirer
of Mr. Hitchens, but you, Sir, take the cake.
Have you considered submitting the work to
"TeenBeatnik: the teen magazine for modern dreyfusards?"

Posted by: arendt at February 8, 2005 03:10 PM

Robin,

Were your colleagues Israelis, by chance? I can't quite imagine Arabs or Persians acting like that, but I've heard second-hand accounts that denizens of Jerusalem are brash and aggressive like New Yorkers.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 8, 2005 03:50 PM

I was at the tapig, Michael, and I must say that I am shocked that Hitch doesn't read blogs. His arguments were deadly; I thought for sure he was a blog reader. I got to shake his hand after, and feel very privileged to have done so.

Posted by: Seafarious at February 8, 2005 04:20 PM

I have just read your blog for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed your account of the dinner and discussions you had.
It has been interesting to read the comments that followed also. I'll certainly be one of those who drop by to read your posts in the future.

Posted by: pacos_gal at February 8, 2005 05:12 PM

There was more substance in that alcoholic interlude than any recent debate at the UN. You are a lucky man.

Posted by: trainer at February 8, 2005 07:02 PM

Michael, I just wanted to express a sincere thank-you for your efforts on behalf of the Friends of Democracy, and in particular the Iraqi election coverage. We thought the whole project was a media milestone. A critical-event reportage stream straight from the source, absent the usual legacy media filtering. You made a seriously important contribution.

Second point regarding the comments on Jim Hake and Spirit of America. E.g., "who paid", "first class on the same flight", etc. Sprit of America sets an important example of transparency - every aspect of their finances is directly accessible on their website. It takes just one click to access the "Financial Information" page. What other NGO's are running 7.6% Admin Expenses?

The pass-through is a key measure of how effective an NGO is. Can anyone tell me what the UN pass-through is? Would it reach even 50%. How would one find out?

Lastly, if Jim Hake flies first-class it doesn't follow that he is a Bad Guy. He is a successful entrepreneur. I presume has accumulated some personal net worth. If he decides to spend his own funds for a first-class ticket, do we need to denigrate him? This man has invested a great amount of personal effort in some very innovative and effective non-government-funded Good Works - Bravo to Jim Hake!

Posted by: Steve at February 8, 2005 08:03 PM

Democracy furthers our interest in the middle east, HERE and NOW.

And when democracy promotion no longer furthers our interests, you'll ditch it. We know.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 12:31 AM

My compliments on both Totten and Hitchens for their remarkable, if unintentional, moment of clarity during their little dinner party. Their obnoxious, reactionary hypocrisy was finally on display for all to see.

Gassan Atiyyah was right, who the hell ARE you to dictate to an Iraqi -- any Iraqi -- what their government will or will not be? As if you could do anything about it, anyway (it's unlikely that a couple of neo-fascist chickenhawks like Totten and Hitchens would ever actually, like, fight in the imperialist wars they so gleefully endorse). As was demonstrated last year, the Ayatollahs in Iraq have the power to enforce their agendas, and have had this power even before the much-touted January 30th elections (as was the case last year, when Bremer was forced to back down in the face of massive demonstrations called out by al-Sistani). If the Iraqi mullahs decide on a particular policy for Iraq, there is damned little Totten, Hitchy or anyone else, including the U.S. government, can do about it. This is the new political reality in Iraq, all thanks to Junior Bush.

Like it or not, it is becoming increasingly clear that the "Islamo-fascists" that Hitchens, Totten and their ilk regularly rail against are coming to power in Iraq. That Christopher and Michael have fully endorsed the forces that have helped this to come about is the final, most brutal irony. Their ideology blinds them to this truth but, given their disreputible political backgrounds, this should come as no surprise.

-timmy ramone
http://www.browncross.com/usualsuspects

Posted by: timmy ramone at February 9, 2005 02:17 AM

Timmy Ramone,

Yawn.

Kimmitt,

Your experiences with liberals are obviously different to mine. The only time these guys I'm talking about want to discuss places like Sudan is when they're criticising the US for not stepping in. As in, unilaterally. Crikey, I can just hear their shrieks of outrage if the US did decide to go it alone in Sudan or anywhere else for that matter!

And unfortunately, we can't change history. We can't do anything about the mistakes of Clinton, Bush Snr and Carter. But Bush Jnr has stated that those days are over, and so far it looks like he means it.

As for human rights concerns, allow me to run this by you. In our country, the government locks asylum seekers and their children in detention camps for years on end. Many of those people, including the kids, go quite mad. Most of the public turn a blind eye. Our PM was never going to try to sell the war on humanitarian grounds to an electorate that shrugs when an Iraqi or Afghani asylum seeker hurls himself onto barbed wire and dies. Or when a six-year-old Muslim boy becomes comatose through fear and stress. (Actually, they blamed the abaya-clad mother for that. Of course.)

I don't know what it's like in the US, but we're not that different. It's almost impossible to get people to agree to a war on humanitarian grounds. Our government knew it had to frighten us into it.

Me, I supported the war on humanitarian grounds because I spent years studying Saddam and his crazed playboy sons, and I believed it was the only way to get rid of him and give the Iraqis hope for a better future.

Posted by: Fish at February 9, 2005 03:09 AM

And when democracy promotion no longer furthers our interests, you'll ditch it. We know.

Kimmit,

it's like you Liberals keep saying, the U.S. can't be policemen to the entire world.

We agree.

But that still doesn't explain your aversion to democracy in Iraq. I'm still waiting on that one ;-)

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 05:59 AM

timmy,
What, exactly, is a "disreputable political background"? How do you go about defining that? Or measuring it for that matter? Do you use a thermometer up your rear, or is it more along the lines of a geiger counter? What are the parameters, the benchmarks, the thresholds? Do you have a spreadsheet with the various classifications that you could email all involved so we could be little more informed when you deign to grace us with your ominscience? Quite, and when I get it I will send you mine with my thesholds and benchmarks on militant stupidity and arrogance.

Really, irrespective of the fact that I disagree with your view, I was quite wiling to take it for what it was worth, but you utterly lost me when I read that.

Humility is a good thing, you should try it sometime....

surfactant

Posted by: surfactant at February 9, 2005 06:30 AM

Like it or not, it is becoming increasingly clear that the "Islamo-fascists" that Hitchens, Totten and their ilk regularly rail against are coming to power in Iraq.

timmy,

You Libs have spent 3 years telling us, INSISTING, that not all muslmims are terrorists or fascists, and you just undid all that in one single sentence.

We don't believe Sistani is a threat simply because he's a muslim. But you do. Because Bush has forced you to. Whatever Bush is for, you're against. He's made a bigot out of you.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 06:39 AM

"Washington made me happy as hell that I live where I live. There is absolutely no shortage of things to do and places to hang out in at 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday."

michael, i have to say--you were in the business district of washington, so of course nothing was open. if you had been on U street, or adams morgan, there would've been no shortage until 3am...

Posted by: schtaple at February 9, 2005 08:59 AM

I was present at the Juan Cole lecture (Georgetown University) during which Christopher Hitchens voiced his usual, scripted dissent--stridently. I have to say that he came off as an abject lunatic: shouting during Cole's presentation, chastising dissenting Iraqi audience members, telling the audience that we should be "ashamed" for certain shared responses. He is both a narcissist and an absolutist who seems more concerned with maintaining his image as a "polemicist" than anything else, including the entirely subjective "good" of the Iraqi people. Also, I have to add that this post is one of the most sycophantic pieces of prose that I have ever read.

Posted by: amanda at February 9, 2005 09:20 AM

amanda,

you should be ashamed. All those Iraqis would be slaves if it were up to you.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 10:09 AM

It's almost impossible to get people to agree to a war on humanitarian grounds. Our government knew it had to frighten us into it.

It doesn't bother you even a little tiny bit that you had to propagate a series of lies to gin up support for the war?

If people don't want their kids dying for humanitarian causes, then that's pretty much their right. You have to convince people, not snow them -- or else you show contempt (rather brutal contempt) for the very concept of democracy that you're supposedly supporting.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 12:33 PM

But that still doesn't explain your aversion to democracy in Iraq.

You're going to have to look long and hard to find anything resembling an aversion to democracy in Iraq in anything which I have ever said.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 12:37 PM

Kimmit,

Libs are showing an aversion to it. They have since the invasion, and it hasn't changed since the election, even if I'm not willing to search your every comment on every thread to see if YOU are averse to it.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 01:04 PM

carlos,

in my humble opinion, christopher hitchens is the one who should be totally ashamed... of his 1990's-style, tan, rumpled-ass barn jacket! Aesthete he is not!

Posted by: amanda at February 9, 2005 01:18 PM

Seems like you get really moist for
Christopher Hitchens.

Posted by: VP Admin at February 9, 2005 01:27 PM

Excellent dinner and drinks report. If you're going to update Hitchens on blog doings, certainly forward him the recent Jonah Goldberg/Juan Cole mud wrestling match. It's availabe on both their websites, but the Corner has a post from Jonah to littlereason.blogspot.com which has a useful and largely neutral summary.

Posted by: Interested Conservative at February 9, 2005 05:04 PM

I think the crux of this was that Christopher Hitchens (often published in Slate) doesn't read blogs and you proved to him that's where the vital info is. Bravo! It's the truth "Hitch". No matter how smart and savvy and famous you are, if you don't read the blogs today, you don't know what's really goin' on.

Posted by: alwaysright at February 9, 2005 06:44 PM

Mary Madigan thinks Sistani might be an Islamist??

Well, I never...

So what's the pro-war line on this one. Should he be taken out?

Posted by: Benjamin at February 9, 2005 08:22 PM

Jernigan said some of the classes were also reading the book "Because of Winn-Dixie," about a homeless dog.
"The kids love it," she said. "That is what I think motivated them that much." Those classes raised the most items, beating the classroom goal of 100 each.
Taken from http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/news/local/10733986.htm
looking for dog books, go to http://www.dogbooks.mypetdogs.com

Posted by: interesting dog books at February 9, 2005 09:51 PM

Libs are showing an aversion to it.

I'm sorry dude, I'm trying to hear you, but there's this strawman, and he's on fire, and he's muttering something about how the ball has been moved, and the sprinklers are very loud.

I'm pretty sure what you said was really funny though, so I'm gonna go with that as a response.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 10:34 PM

So at what point did you give "Hitch" a blowjob? After you talked about how great America is for freeing Iraq or before you started talking about how you would never "let" Iraq elect a government you didn't like?

Posted by: dude at February 9, 2005 11:48 PM

Hey, the trolls are late for the party too!

Kimmitt,

The above comment was not for you! In answer to your question about WMDs and lies, I don't believe our government or anyone else's lied about Saddam's WMDs. Not once in all those years I was following Saddam did I come across anyone who sincerely believed he either didn't have them or wouldn't get them the first chance he got. As in, when the sanctions were lifted.

In fact, I still remember Clinton and Blair being strongly criticised by the likes of...Maureen Dowd, I think...for not taking a tougher stance on Saddam. There was real panic in the air in those days, and it wasn't a neo-con beat-up either.

Our PM has lied about many things, and that's one of the reasons I didn't vote for him, but I can't in good conscience call him a liar over WMDs. It might be emotionally satisfying, but it would be intellectually dishonest, IMHO.

Posted by: Fish at February 10, 2005 01:05 AM

Damn, I love Hitchens. Makes me want to question my sexuality.

Posted by: Shep at February 10, 2005 01:08 AM

"This, basically, is what I said to him: “First of all, it is our business if Iraqis or anyone else wants to put a Taliban government into power. People like that murdered thousands in our country and thousands more in countries all over the world - including Iraq."

Gee, how nice that you and your buddy Chris and those nice comfortable Iraqi exiles in their nice clothes in a nice warm and cozy DC bar can pontificate and opine with such a wonderful sense of moral righteousness while whole cities are destroyed, Iraqis are forced to live with the obscene ravages of depleted uranium for centuries; civilians are “liberated” with phosphorus bombs; women who once were freely and highly educated (and were represented in high levels of gov’t, the media, universities, other institutions), were free to wear whatever clothes they chose and walk about as they pleased are now forced to wear the abaya/chador/hijab, are routinely attacked and raped and forced to stop attending school and are generally terrified of walking outside their homes (sounds a lot like the Taliban to me), and routinely murdered for daring to act outside the bounds of sharia law; while a country’s entire historical legacy is destroyed; while over 100,000 people have died as a result of the invasion and occupation, where an avg. of 100 people die every week (and it is now documented fact that most civilian deaths are the result of US occupation forces); while US and other soldiers die and are maimed every day (not incl. those who’ve committed suicide of course); while returning US soldiers show up as homeless & mentally ill on our streets, having to live for the rest of their lives with physical and mental disabilities---you can feel all wonderful about yourself for fighting the good fight against fascism in a nice little bar getting drunk explaining to an Iraqi why “WE” are there to “fight fascism.” Words like “revolting” and “moral degenerates” don’t even begin to describe you and Chrissy pissy boy.

Posted by: Helena at February 10, 2005 07:52 AM

LOL Helena, depleted uranium is so safe we actually armor our vehicles with it.

Fewer than 20,000 have died in Iraq, bogus guesstimates notwithstanding.

Nice you can sit there in front of your computer and defend Saddam's state-santioned rape rooms and torture/mutilation/murder chambers.

Posted by: TallDave at February 10, 2005 08:56 AM

I bet those Iraqi women didn't feel all that safe when Udai Hussein was raping them.

Not to mention the 2 million people Saddam killed.

You might just as well decry the tens of thousands French civilians killed in the Normandy invasion.

Posted by: TallDave at February 10, 2005 09:02 AM

Goddamn, that was a funny post Helena! Can I have some of your Kool-Aid? Please?

Posted by: Tom at February 10, 2005 09:09 AM

I've never yet seen a conservative who gets the Lancet study right. It's an estimate of how much the Iraqi death rate has increased compared to the last year or two of Saddam's rule. The study, based on survey evidence (asking Iraqis directly about deaths in their household), finds that in the period following our invasion (not quite sure how long, I think 18 months), the best estimate is that 100,000 more Iraqis died than would have died if we had not invaded and death rates stayed the same as they were during the last 18 months of Saddam's rule. The 95% confidence interval runs from about 15,000 to 200,000 excess deaths, with 100,000 being the most likely based on the survey evidence. It's imperfect, as all social science is, but the methodology is straightforward and honest. The survey made an attempt to eliminate actual soldiers from the death counts, but the casualty counts could include insurgents killed by U.S. forces. They could also include civilians killed by suicide bombers.

Our intervention has led to a lot of deaths and a lot of suffering in Iraq. More than Saddam was causing in his last years. The fact is that so far we haven't demonstrated on a day-to-day basis that we can run the place more competently than Saddam. Conservative self-congratulation in the face of this is IMO kind of disgusting. Hopefully Iraq's future development will justify the suffering that has occurred so far. I for one don't believe that continued U.S. occupation or control will be a helpful part of that development. For the most part it hasn't been so far.

Posted by: MQ at February 10, 2005 10:55 AM

“the best estimate is that 100,000 more Iraqis died than would have died if we had not invaded and death rates stayed the same as they were during the last 18 months of Saddam's rule.”

Exactly, which is why I wrote “as a result of the occupation and invasion.”

“I bet those Iraqi women didn't feel all that safe when Udai Hussein was raping them.”

Right. Now they don’t need special rooms to get raped. All they need to do is go out on the street without Islamic dress. Wonderful improvement.

“You might just as well decry the tens of thousands French civilians killed in the Normandy invasion.”

And then warmongers like you wonder why anti-war folks view your arguments with such contempt. This historical ignorance and idiocy is breathtaking. The purpose of the Normandy invasion was to attack (and oust from France) the world’s then most efficient, best organized, well-equipped military which was on a campaign to gobble up Europe and had done just that to several European countries. The purpose of the Iraq invasion (a military midget that was never a threat to anyone outside its own borders since the 1991 war) was to wrest imperial and resource control over a region that a cult of ideological fanatics in the DC wanted to dominate, period. The sight of the world’s most powerful military waging war against a 1000th-rate military “power” like Iraq is akin to watching 5 of the world’s top boxers holding submachine guns fighting a 5 year old girl with a stick. How anyone can find any honor and pride in such a “war” is beyond me.

“Nice you can sit there in front of your computer and defend Saddam's state-sanctioned rape rooms and torture/mutilation/murder chambers.”

And again, statements like this merely confirm the sheer stupidity of the pro-war crowd. To condemn the US invasion is automatically translated into defending Saddam. You’re incapable of complex thought, you reduce the entire world to BLACK/WHITE categories apparently. I suppose I can do the same thing then. Since you’re so fond of the invasion, I suppose you thoroughly approve of the new reality: fundamentalist attacks against Christians, fundamentalist attacks against women who don’t behave according to Sharia law (rapes and murders have made Iraqi women terrified of leaving their homes; thousands have dropped out of school), deaths of US soldiers, maiming of thousands. All this you must absolutely love of course. Why don't you write to their families and tell them how much you just adore the fact that their sons and daughters have been killed or permanently disabled or committed suicide?

I know more about Saddam’s Iraq than most of the bloviating rabid war crowd. Back in the mid-late 80s I was in DC working with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty demanding that the US gov’t stop cozying up to his gov’t. Back then people like me (and journalists like Robert Fisk who severely criticized the UK gov’t for its support of Saddam back then) were condemned by rightwingers who thought anything was legitimate in US policy objectives for containing Iran – including winking at Saddam’s atrocities, providing him with limited support. Back then people like you said ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about Saddam; rightwingers couldn’t care less about his regime while the Left wrote about his regime continuously. But that's typical. Rightwing pro-war bloviators suddenly discover compassion for people living under a dictatorship only when the US gov't suddenly decides it wants to invade that country for its own imperial reasons. People like you couldn't care less about Iraqis under Saddam or anyone else.

“LOL Helena, depleted uranium is so safe we actually armor our vehicles with it.”

Well then I guess the thousands of complaints filed by US, Dutch (and other European) soldiers who served in Bosnia and the first Gulf war about the severe physical disabilities they’ve experienced due to depleted uranium are all lies. All those guys and their families are all liars because you say so, of course. I’ve seen several photos of American soldiers who served in the first Gulf war: those whose bodies have been ravaged by depleted uranium. The worst was one 20 year old boy who for months kept complaining about a rash that kept spreading on his body. The VA just gave him various medications that did nothing. Finally, after the rash had spread to his whole body, the doctors at the VA told him they had to TAKE HIS SKIN OFF surgically. I saw the photo (in a presentation put together by a group of veterans and their families who’ve been working for years to get attention paid to their illnesses due to depleted uranium exposure). He died soon after. I’m sure you wouldn’t know anything about these guys. That would require a desire to do some research on their experiences and testimonies, which you obviously don’t have. Warmongers like you feign sympathy with US soldiers -- you love them when they're killing somebody you hate but forget all about them when they're killed or maimed or become homeless.

And of course there’s also the documented strange increase of Iraqi mothers giving birth to deformed children soon after US/UK (and French until 1998) bombing. But hey, so what, just as long as Sistani can put together a new gov’t that will look like Iran-lite, everything’s ok.

Posted by: Helena at February 10, 2005 11:56 AM

Excellent post. It both made me fell as if I were there, and jealous that I wasn't.

I wouldn't last 1 round with the likes of Hitch, but my God, the humiliation would be well worth experience :)

I'm truly flabergasted that Hitch doesn't follow the blogosphere. Well, kudos for giving him the fix, hopefully he becomes a true convert.

Posted by: Steve in Boston at February 10, 2005 12:13 PM

P.S. Add an "edit" feature, and I promise to proof before push ;)

Posted by: Steve in Boston at February 10, 2005 12:16 PM

Here's a conservative who gets the Lancet study.

The study took the worst parts of Iraq, counted the deaths in a given time period, and extrapolated that to all of Iraq for all of a long time period. Consider it like taking the week of 9/11 in New York City and treating it as demonstrative of the entire country for two years.

Posted by: Carlos at February 10, 2005 01:04 PM

"But I did argue with him. And, no, I couldn’t beat him. I was too drunk and he was too smart and prepared."

--Michael Totten

"The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it."

--Dale Carnegie

Posted by: Dale Carnegie at February 10, 2005 02:25 PM

Wrong, 180 degrees off, Carlos. The "Lancet" authors actually threw out the `worst' part of Iraq (Fallujah) to avoid precisely the problem you describe. Their sample selection was based on the population distribution in the last (pre-war) Iraqi census, to get a random sample of neighborhoods across the country. I wish the study full text was still up on the web.

There are valid critiques to be made about the study -- for instance, it should not be read as a count of direct U.S. killings of civilians, it's just a study of overall death rates by all causes. So it's not measuring atrocities by U.S. forces or anything like that, it's about the general level of violence and breakdown of social order in the country.

Posted by: MQ at February 10, 2005 02:59 PM

There are valid critiques to be made about the study -- for instance, it should not be read as a count of direct U.S. killings of civilians, it's just a study of overall death rates by all causes.

Thanks for clearing up that minor detail MQ.

Posted by: Carlos at February 10, 2005 03:15 PM

>
NO, ASSHOLE, FUCK YOU. It isn't that I buy without comment the whole of her blog, but you, jerk, you have transended just like shrub and his minions the whole issue of why we went into Iraq. We didn't go in to "free the Iraqis. We went in for a complex of reasons, none of which had one drop to do with helping the Iraqis or their country. There will be nothing that we do there, NOT ONE FUCKING thing that we do there that will work for their benefit if we have our way, because the U.S. would rather have a dictator controlling the country providing he is "our" dictator. If you for half a second don't believe that you are just as dumb as your post suggests.
Gug

Posted by: James Guglielmion at February 10, 2005 04:08 PM

Gug,

who cares what shrub's "real" motives were. The iraqis are finally free. Why the long face?

Posted by: Carlos at February 10, 2005 05:05 PM

That was a great day... By the way, you and Hitchens are both correct, wine IS red

Posted by: C. at February 10, 2005 05:06 PM

Interesting reading, thank you.

I'm posting a link to your blog.

-Steven G. Erickson aka Vikingas

Posted by: Steven G. Erickson at February 10, 2005 09:24 PM

yankee go home

Posted by: NeoDude at February 10, 2005 09:46 PM

We offer the youth the freedom to develop their nation, even in the case of smaller nations. We offer them room for creative fantasy, the opportunity to transform great thoughts to reality outside the lecture hall. We offer the realization of dreams on a world scale, a common Germanic will, a common European will. We fill the spiritual vacuum left by liberalism with the magic of a worldview that draws self-confidence and meaning to life from race and the blood of one's ancestors.

From:
The Danger of Americanism
http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/sk03.htm

Posted by: NeoDude at February 10, 2005 09:59 PM

I don't think the Shia political elite of Iran and Iraq ever forgave the US for Hussein:

What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

From
Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement

Whatever his complexes, Khomeini had no qualms about sending his followers, including young boys, off to their deaths for his greater glory. This callous disregard for human life was no less characteristic of Saddam Hussein. And, for that matter, it was also no less characteristic of much of the world community, which not only couldn't be bothered by a few hundred thousand Third World corpses, but tried to profit from the conflict.

From:
The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

Posted by: NeoDude at February 10, 2005 10:48 PM

MQ wrote:
There are valid critiques to be made about the study -- for instance, it should not be read as a count of direct U.S. killings of civilians, it's just a study of overall death rates by all causes. So it's not measuring atrocities by U.S. forces or anything like that, it's about the general level of violence and breakdown of social order in the country.

Not just that -- think of the breakdown of health infrastructure, as well as malnutrition. Anarchy isn't good for people's health.

Posted by: Guy Berger at February 11, 2005 10:47 PM

Man this writer is such a shameless dickhead. Not becasue of what he supposedly did during the dinner party, but the way he says it. He really should take a few writing classes or something! Sounds so self promoting and stupid hanging on the words and ideas of the real original Hitchens. What a wanker, what a maroon!!!

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surfactant:

If you're not already familiar with Hitchens' political background, then I'm not about to waste any time trying to educate you. Read a book, or somethin'.

carlos:

"We don't believe Sistani is a threat simply because he's a muslim. But you do."

Don't take this the wrong way, but fuck you.

I never said any such thing about Muslims. Ignorant, right-wing militarists, like yourself, always resort to that sort of accusation when you run out of arguments (as if you ever had any to begin with). Based on that comment of yours, I have to assume you're the kind of thug who accuses anyone who criticizes Ariel Sharon of anti-Semitism.

Concerns about Sistani are legitimate because he is the spiritual leader of two reactionary, Islamist groups, namely SCIRI and al-Dawa (a conclusion drawn from readily-available information on both of these organizations). Sistani himself was nurtured and supported by the Iranian Ayatollahs, a group who I'm sure even Hitchens would agree are at best a very disreputable lot.

As I said before, it is Ironic that folks with allegedly "anti-fascist" credentials are so eager to see "Islamo-fascists" (a term I dislike, but I defy you to point out why that label does not apply to SCIRI and al-Dawa) come to power in Iraq.

Posted by: timmy ramone at February 13, 2005 11:46 AM

Posting this late on a thread is a little like wandering the back streets of a major city after midnight...not sure who or what you'll run into...

But here goes anyway.

Helena,

Stop showing off. I also worked for Amnesty in the mid to late eighties, and neither Left nor Right was truly interested in the plight of the Iraqis. Yes, the Left wrote about it more, but ask a Lefty what they would do to improve the situation on the ground in Iraq (and Kurdistan) and they had no realistic answer. Much like today.
Nor were they interested in kicking Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991. The Left wanted diplomacy, and I can't tell you how often they blathered on about Kuwait being a legitimate part of Iraq anyway, historically speaking.

Your language is a tad too hysterical for someone who claims to have spent so much time working for these organisations. In my experience, the most effective defenders of human rights are those who don't take sides so vigorously, simply because they have a greater understanding of the complexities of each situation.

I'm not saying you're a sham, I'm just suggesting your own personal anti-war, anti-Bush agenda has skewed your perceptions.

Posted by: Fish at February 14, 2005 02:45 AM

Ali,

"What a wanker. What a maroon!!!"

It's 'moron', dear.

About those writing classes...

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please don't ban amos, put up with it as you do the commies. He's actually trying to get your back.
tis obvious that hitch is in the flux outside of the lib/con dichotomy. Its the burden of the hip and smart. Will be a wedge issue for ad hom commies, i.e. "you party and youre a consv, hypocrite..." Perfect opp to say " I define me not you" and leave it at that. Youre trying to convince the unconvinceable while sitting with convinceable. wine will not assist delineation but is much more important than living in a wineless "cole-world". I remember that my altruism motivates me to engage the unengagable.
not a vice in the least. I personally get annoyed by stargazing amongst consvs, leads to conservatism being leatherbound east coast dry drunk catholic or mitch albom approval seeking wimps. hannity at least used to work construction!! Oreily, buchannan..no thanks.
what really freaks out east coast americans is that hitch cuts through the bullshit and just says it. That's kinda normal here in Detroit but it surprises people in the ivy. Besides, the real war is in WshDC with the pelosis. the iraqitis are her kind's playthings to get back at the man.
Don't kid yourselves that all iraqis will thank us or thnk to, I've lived in Germany and there's nothing at all around to commem US deaths except the bases. Whatever, great blog

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NeoDude -

Your sources are contradictory. The latter one says, I quote:

"France became the major source of Iraq's high-tech weaponry, in no small part to protect its financial stake in that country.2 The Soviet Union was Iraq's largest weapon's supplier, while jockeying for influence in both capitals."

China was also a big weapons supplier. And, Germany sold the chemical weapons plants to Saddam. Your first reference uses some questionable sources to try to pin this on the US but, A) Iraq did not successfully deploy biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq war so, the fact that they obtained samples of well-cataloged biological agents that were available to all our trading partners is moot - they also obtained them from Porton Down in Britain and the Louis Pasteur Institute in France - it just wasn't on the radar screens of western governments at the time that Saddam might be trying to manufacture biological weapons B) Any military or dual use items we did provide were insignificant (as your second article confirms, Saddam obtained the bulk of his military equipment from then and future allies France and Russia) C) Cyanide is not an effective battlefield chemical weapon: Its high volatility probably makes hydrogen cyanide difficult to use in warfare since there are problems in achieving sufficiently high concentrations outdoors.

In sum, the allegations are thinly sourced, contradictory and sometimes nonsensical. But, I'm sure that, in wanting to believe the worst about America, they are absolutely conclusive to you.

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Copy of a letter to the editor of The Nation.

Editor:
When reading a pundit who is a singularly facile and brilliant wordsmith it is helpful to look between the lines but also be aware of what might lurk in some psychic nether land. In reading Christopher Hitchens, Why I'm (Slightly) for Bush, (Nov.8.), I was hoping he would make it clear exactly where he resides now after his dramatic exodus from his previous, (as we were given to believe), political postures. It was not to be.
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This is the first time i've checked out this this blog and comments, and I find it tragicomic that their are so many comments that are based on lousy information.
E.g.s;
1. Chile is now free and prosperous. Yeah, no thanks to Pinochet, and Chile now has elected a(nother)socialist, who was an Allende supporter. I imagine ITT had the best interests of the Chileans in mind as they lobbied for the '73 coup.
2. Iran moved toward Islamic fundamentalism as a direct result of the coup of '53 that deposed democratically elected Mossedeq (whose fatal error was pushing for nationalization of Iranian oil resources) and put the Shah in power. Unlike most Americans, Iranians (and Iraqis) know this history. Now, in what is a very high speed replay of Iran's history, the result of the Iraq war will be a nationalistic, Shiite, mostly fundamentalist state having strong ties with Iran, and there is nothing that the ham-handed Bush crew will be able to do about it.
3. Viet Nam has a socialist government and we have normal diplomatic relations with them now. After ~3 million of deaths, which came on the heels of the French occupation/"civil war" that resulted in about half of a million deaths. We should be thankful that they aren't as vengeful as folks are in the Middle East.
The arguments from the commenters (and of Hitchens, for that matter) seem to me to be devoid of the overriding influence of powerful business interests trying to steal valuable resources from these countries, and the ones that profit from prosecuting wars (Eisenhower's MIC).
This starry-eyed love affair with delusions about the motives behind freedom and democracy being spread using US military, CIA, etc. will hopefully going the way of the Neanderthal soon.
Oh yeah... and try explaining to the relatives and friends of the 30,000 civilian (W's figure, and god knows how many military) deaths caused by W's idiotic adventure how well off they are now. Why don't they like us? Boo hoo hoo.
And the little American guy gets NOTHING. Or less.

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Posted by: josie at January 31, 2007 06:20 AM

You folks really need to get that anti-spam filter working!

Anyway, here we are, two years on, and I thought I'd swing by and see just how well that "democracy" thing was working out in Iraq. Hm... Not so good, it seems. I hate to say "I told you so," so I won't. Instead, I'll let Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com sum things up for me:

"...The neocons did an end run around the mainstream intelligence agencies to manufacture the lies that lured us into war, and Christopher Hitchens did more than his part to spread these lies. But in the minds of the neocons, all their lies are noble ones – besides, this whole obsession with such outdated concepts as truth and falsehood is just a superstition dreamed up by the 'reality-based community,' as one White House official put it to Ron Suskind. Watch us while we make history: in the triumphal atmosphere of the War Party's heyday, a fatal hubris was in the air, and the pro-war intellectuals breathed this in so deeply that the effects have yet to wear off. Hitchens is drunk on a lot more than booze.

"...Alcoholics often suffer from delusions, and their recalcitrance is part and parcel of their strenuous denial. The reality on the ground has proved the drunken warriors utterly wrong, yet they still go on pretending that all is well, if only the 'surge' would be given time to work, if only the media would stop subverting the war effort, if only..."

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