“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, May 29, 2003


Al Jazeera has reported that a U.S. helicopter was shot down, and four soldiers killed, around Hit. The military is saying that a helicopter was damaged, but not by any hostile fire.

Hitchens. LI has an unfortunate bug up our ass about the man. We don't want this site to be another nitpicking place where a lefty guy rants about the multiple sins of right wing media types -- which is why we sprinkle rebarbative posts about micro-history among posts in which a lefty guy rants about the multiple sins of right wing media types.

In any case, there's been a rise in the level of discomfort in Hitchens columns over the last month. Having made a career move as a lefty who moved right to defend western values, he is having to calibrate with the evident contempt for western values, except those associated with the quick buck, by the administration he so fervently supports. In his latest Slate piece, there is, obviously, the fact that a Kissinger associate is now ruling Iraq, that life seems to have turned shitty for your run of the mill Iraqi, and that his favorite multi-millionaire felon, Chalabi, is being shunted aside as the Americans finally have got it through there head that there is no advantage in setting up a figure head if that figure head has no support in the country -- since American muscle will still have to crack Iraqi heads.

Astonishingly, however, Hitchens still construes the anti-war crowd in the image of his polemical fantasy. One of the great arguments against the war was that we simply don't do "post-conflict" situations: we don't pay for cleaning our messes, and we don't distribute tiny driblets of our enormous wealth to areas like Afghanistan and Iraq. We have no sense that there are unrecoverable costs, here -- we want to be paid back, right away. This is the real Vietnam syndrome. This isn't an ideological accusation -- its a summary of historical patterns that reach deeply into American history. Here's Hitchens take on the the state of play among casus belli:

"To some extent, every faction in this debate has been looking down the barrel of a rifle that might backfire. If no weapons of mass destruction are ever unearthed, for example, that still doesn't mean that Iraq even attempted to comply with the terms of U.N. Resolution 1441 and it still makes nonsense of those who prophesied an apocalyptic outcome to any invasion. (This self-canceling propaganda has occurred before: Those who argued that the "real" reason for the removal of the Taliban was the building of a Unocal pipeline have yet to present any hard empirical evidence of such a sinister pipeline being laid, or even planned. Meanwhile, previous opponents of a U.S.-led presence in Afghanistan send me gloating e-mails every day, showing that the state of affairs in that country is far from ideal and that Washington's interest in it is lapsing. Unless this means that they prefer Afghanistan the way it was, as some of them doubtless do, I hope they realize that they seem to be arguing for more and better intervention there, not for less.)

Wow -- how many people were arguing an apocalyptic outcome to an invasion due to WMD? The argument was about fighting in Baghdad -- although the argument was, at no time, that Saddam was going to roll the coalition. The Baghdad fear was reasonable, since urban warfare is messy. However, Saddam 's forces folded, and Baghdad was taken with less casualties that it took to take Nasiryah. So fears there were wrong. Once again, the casualties were all on the Iraqi side. As for the argument about more and better intervention ... ah, finally logic is beginning, oh just beginning, to creep into Hitchens mental processes. A project that is frontloaded by a military display, which can arouse immediate popularity, but devolves into an endless stalemate that slowly lets the situation worsen, and is barely supported, is not a project one supports. To paraphrase Bush's favorite philosopher, no man builds his house on hot air balloons. I supported the war (these kind of "I support" statements strike me as so pompous -- it wasn't like I was building the jet fighters. I said I thought it was a good idea in varfious conversations) in Afghanistan; it is the amazing incompetence of this administration since Tora Bora that should have made anybody wary of invading Iraq. The figures didn't add up before the war -- either in manpower, or in the will to finace the project. Now we are slowly feeling the consequence. If there is an apocalypse there, it will be a slow one. An ambush here, a suicide bomber there. Meanwhile, although Hitchens doesn't talk about it, Rumsfeld (his guy) assures us, from the Wall Street Journal, that we are going to implement "free enterprise" in Iraq. Is that a beautiful thing or what? Maybe we'll even get a few Iraqis to support it, not that we need em.

In other words, the mess is getting messier. Hitchens apparently thinks he can retain his belligerent stance by retroactively attributing to the anti-war party positions that they never held, or by treating claims that have been borne out -- such as the lack of WMD - as so much dross. So let's spell it out: if you go to war for faked reasons and win, you will have all the more problem, politically, garnering support for the kind of costly intervention that will make the nation you have conquered secure -- to say nothing of free and prosperous.

For a man who claims to have studied Marxist dialectics at Oxford, Hitchens is a curiously dull blade about this kind of thing.

No comments: