Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Hitchens... what a blowhard.

I don’t really know if Christopher Hitchens destroyed all of his credibility when his crusade against the Baathist regime of Iraq turned into a crusade against everyone who disagrees with him, or if it just revealed to the left that he’s a close-minded, arrogant little nugget of hate who happens to also be a great writer. Either way, it’s really a shame. Hitchens is a provocative spirit, a powerful master of prose, and a quick wit. Unfortunately, all of this has turned him into a total propaganda machine for the Neo-Con wing of the Bush administration.

My biggest problem with Hitchens is a fairly simple one: he’s sneaky. All he does is either misrepresent his opponents view points and argue against his misrepresentation or selectively pick the most fringey, insane thing out there in the blogosphere and make it as if it is a representative idea of his opposition. Throughout the build up to war in Iraq, he refused to take the anti-war argument seriously, arguing instead against the International ANSWER coalition’s ludicrous statements about Milosevic and Hussein. Very few people in the anti-war movement took them seriously; ANSWER got to be included because they filed for permits early. But they provided brilliant fodder for didacts like Hitchens to smear the entire anti-war movement.

So now, in the past seventy-two hours, we have Hitchens going further off the rhetorical deep end. First, on Scarborough Country, Joe was talking with a round table about the recent torture of Iraqi prisoners. One of the people Scarborough had on was a Democratic Strategist. He asked said Strategist a strategy question: how does the torture play out in the broader campaign for President and for the hearts and minds of the Arab world. When she answered the question, Hitchens jumped on her for talking about people as political capital instead of as poor human beings. She got caught up in it (maybe it was the English accent) and argued the point with him instead of saying “look, you bastard, no one takes you seriously, I doubt that your sober and I was asked a strategy based question”.

And then we have Hitchens’ latest piece in Slate.com, where he used the torture cases to argue in favor of the continued involvement of Ahmed Chalabi in the reconstruction efforts of Iraq. Here’s the key sentences:
“The secretary of state is quoted as saying that he often thinks our biggest problem in Iraq is Ahmad Chalabi…. It's a change, though, from the authorized smear and jeer of last year, which was that Chalabi was an American puppet. Since then he has called for an earlier transfer of sovereignty, earlier elections, and a sterner line on de-Baathification than the patrons of Abu Ghraib would like. He's said and done some other things that I'm not so sure about, and I don't know what happened in the Jordanian banking system many decades ago (and neither, dear reader, do you). But he's not a puppet, and anyone who thinks he is the problem is probably readying some puppets of his own whom you don't want to think about.”
The main argument (in the US at least, but I don’t think Hitchens ever claims he’s arguing about Arab thought) about Chalabi has never been that he was an American puppet. The main argument against Chalabi’s continued involvement is that he’s a liar who was using the US to get rid of Hussein and be forcibly installed as President. That argument was there before the war and now that none of Chalabi’s claims about Iraq WMD are true, and now that he’s screwed over the occupational authority time and again, more and more people are coming to agree with the anti-war folks that Chalabi is not our ally, he’s a simple huckster.

But it was nice of Chris Hitchens to confuse the issue further rather than actually try to make a case for Chalabi’s integrity. Then again, since there’s no case to make, it’s probably easier for Hitchens to argue against something no one really believes.

(oh, PS: the Hitchens article is here.
(and TalkingPointsMemo has great stuff on Chalabi. Check it out!
Ooo, and Salon.com too!)

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