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

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Wednesday, November 05, 2003


As we numerously, and numbingly pointed out in the pre-war buildup, Christopher Hitchens, one of the most showcased of the Bush apologists in the media, argued for a war that diverged significantly from the one the Bush administration said it wanted to fight. Hitchens�s war was never fought. Bush�s was. We have been wondering what effect this might have had on Hitchens. Does his heart still belong to Daddy? Or has he crawled off Paul Wolfowitz�s knee and become a finger-pointer?

The good news is, Hitchens is a loyal soldier. In his latest column for Slate, he shows that he, and Tony Blair, are perhaps the only Brits left who believe the Saddam and the WMD fairytale. But Hitchens was never along on the weapons case. He was, emotionally, tugged by the idea that Saddam was a terrorist, and he still clings to that. Here�s an all too typical passage:

�And it [the peace of 91] left Saddam free to continue to threaten his neighbors and to give support and encouragement to jihad forces around the world. (The man most wanted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Abdul Rahman Yasin, fled straight from New Jersey to Baghdad, though there are still those in our "intelligence" services who prefer to grant Saddam the presumption of innocence in this and many other matters.).�

Perhaps the intelligence services remembered that they helped Klaus Barbie escape Europe in the late 1940s � and they perhaps remembered that that did not imply that the U.S. was pro-Hitler. States make all kind of alliances, for all kinds of reasons. As for the threats to his neighbors, Hitchens truly must be joking. This is a man who didn�t even effectually threaten Northern Iraq, split off by the Coalition No-Fly zone. Since Hitchens loves to put in unsupported French bashing statesments (�Not only was he able to defy the United Nations, but with French and Russian collusion, he was also increasingly able to circumvent sanctions�), perhaps we should add that the No Fly zone was initiated by the French, who moved a reluctant Bush I to implement it.

Hitchens loves to battle straw men; but as the Iraq situation worsens, he doesn�t have that luxury as much as he used to. So as he moves to shape his argument for the war in his customary, and purely meretricious, terms (�The continuation of this regime was indeed an imminent threat, at least in the sense that it was a permanent threat. The question then, becomes this: Should the date or timing of this unpostponable confrontation have been left to Saddam Hussein to pick? The two chief justifications offered by the Bush administration (which did mention human rights and genocide at its first presentation to the United Nations, an appeal that fell on cold as well as deaf ears) were WMDs and terrorism. Here, it is simply astonishing how many people remain willing to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt.�), you can feel him starting to come to grips with the argument that the planning up to the war was flawed, even if one bought the case for belligerence � that instead of having the obnoxious Rumsfeld shooting off his mouth, it would have been far better to have the oily Baker jetting around, holding the hands of the allies. Hitchens, as an ideologue, hates the idea that sometimes, extremism isn�t necessary in the defense of liberty. It is interesting that Lefty types, when they migrate right, don�t stop until they are as far over as possible. Hitchens pairing with Newt Gingrich is much like Horowitz�s pairing with a varied and unsavory crew of racists. Hitchens, however, is a brighter man than the never too 100 watt-ish Horowitz. That said, he is still inclined to that laughable gesture of the self-important insider, the personal assurance from a Very Important Person:

�More to the point, one has to be prepared to support a campaign�or a cause�that is going badly. The president has been widely lampooned by many a glib columnist for saying that increased violence is not necessarily a cause for despair and may even be evidence of traction. He is, in fact, quite right to take this view, which was first expressed, to my knowledge, by Gen. John Abizaid. Those who murder the officials of the United Nations and the Red Cross, set fire to oil pipelines and blow up water mains, and shoot down respected clerics outside places of worship are indeed making our point for us. There is no justifiable way that a country as populous and important as Iraq can be left at the mercy of such people.�

With the last, of course, we can agree. Iraq was never going to have avoid the historic pattern that usually precedes liberation � that is, internal strife. The idea that the U.S. was, or is, going to impose its own form of liberation on the country was the whole reason to oppose the war, from a Burkean standpoint. Hitchens� war was one fought against an absolute evil by an entity without its own interests. A fairy tale war. Luckily, in the real war, the Coalition is reluctantly starting to rethink its screw-ups � for instance, trusting Chalabi as the voice of the Iraqi people; or disbanding the Iraqi army. No thanks, one must add, to Hitchens, whose miserable invectives before the war have not been enriched by any particular ingenuity since Daddy declared the major hostilities over. If Hitchens really wanted to justify this war, perhaps he would have chose this week to write about something a little more timely � for instance, the bonehead gesture of imposing a Grover Norquist approved flat tax on the country. Since nobody in Iraq is much used to paying taxes, this is a non-issue for the nonce � but in combination with selling off Iraq�s private industry, it could soon become a very hot, and very fraught one. We leave Iraqis to the �mercy of such people� as the guerillas when we give them such rally-able objects to resist.

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