Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hitchens' Modest Proposal

Let me begin with a simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

So begins an essay by Christopher Hitchens in the Weekly Standard. I agree with Hitchens on many things, disagree on a lot of others, but have never found him to be anything but a compelling writer. He is, to me, brilliant in sort of a Daniel Patrick Moynihan way, a broad and deep intellect, little tolerance for fools, and not averse to a couple of cocktails. There is also this epic flogging of a hopelessly out of his depth Ron Reagan Jr. on a network I have never heard of called MSNBC. (Thanks to Radioblogger) for the transcript.

RR: Christopher, I'm not sure that I buy the idea that these attacks (the London bombings) are a sign that we're actually winning the war on terror. I mean, how many more victories like this do we really want to endure?

CH: Well, it depends on how you think it started, sir. I mean, these movements had taken over Afghanistan, had very nearly taken over Algeria, in a extremely bloody war which actually was eventually won by Algerian society. They had sent death squads to try and kill my friend Salman Rushdie, for the offense of writing a novel in England. They had sent death squads to Austria and Germany, the Iranians had, for example, to try and kill Kurdish Muslim leaders there. If you make the mistake that I thought I heard you making just before we came on the air, of attributing rationality or a motive to this, and to say that it's about anything but itself, you make a great mistake, and you end up where you ended up, saying that the cause of terrorism is fighting against it, the root cause, I mean. Now, you even said, extraordinarily to me, that there was no terrorist problem in Iraq before 2003. Do you know nothing about the subject at all? Do you wonder how Mr. Zarqawi got there under the rule of Saddam Hussein? Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal?

RR: Well, I'm following the lead of the 9/11 Commission, which...

CH: Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal, the most wanted man in the world, who was sheltered in Baghdad? The man who pushed Leon Klinghoffer off the boat, was sheltered by Saddam Hussein. The man who blew up the World Trade Center in 1993 was sheltered by Saddam Hussein, and you have the nerve to say that terrorism is caused by resisting it? And by deposing governments that endorse it?

RR: No, actually, I didn't say that, Christopher.

CH: At this stage, after what happened in London yesterday?

RR: What I did say, though, was that Iraq was not a center of terrorism before we went in there, but it might be now.

CH: How can you know so little about...

RR: You can make the claim that you just made about any other country in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.

CH: Absolutely nonsense.

RR: So do you think we ought to invade Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers from 9/11 came from, following your logic, Christopher?

CH: Uh, no. Excuse me. The hijackers may have been Saudi and Yemeni,but they were not envoys of the Saudi Arabian government, even when you said the worst...

RR: Zarqawi is not an envoy of Saddam Hussein, either.

CH: Excuse me. When I went to interview Abu Nidal, then the most wanted terrorist in the world, in Baghdad, he was operating out of an Iraqi government office. He was an arm of the Iraqi State, while being the most wanted man in the world. The same is true of the shelter and safe house offered by the Iraqi government, to the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer, and to Mr. Yassin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. How can you know so little about this, and be occupying a chair at the time that you do?

That's got to smart. Back to dog show commentary Ron.

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