Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Wacky World of Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens recently wrote a really wacky article for slate magazine, in which he claimed that the reputed exploits of Abu Musaib al-Zarqawi represent “proof” of the purported “relationship” between Osama bin Laden’s al-qaida and Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime in Iraq.

To follow Hitchens’s twisted logic is difficult, and therefore, it must be extensively quoted:

In order to believe that Zarqawi is or was innocent of al-Qaida and Baathist ties, therefore, or in order to believe that he does not in fact represent such a tie, you must be ready to believe that…

The argument is then completed by three separate assertions, which are given and explained below.

1) A low-level Iraqi official decided to admit a much-hunted Jordanian—a refugee from the invasion of Afghanistan, after Sept. 11, 2001—when even the most conservative forces in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were keeping their distance from such people and even assisting in rounding them up.

This argument is kind of silly. People cross borders surreptitiously all the time. To claim that Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq proves an al-Qaida link is to claim that everything that happened in Iraq happened with Saddam’s explicit permission. By that logic, Bush was responsible for 9-11 because he allowed the hijackers entry into the US.

2) That this newly admitted immigrant felt that the most pressing need of the holy war was the assassination of Kurdish leaders opposed to the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Even assuming that it were true that Zarqawi was involved in the assassination of Kurdish leaders opposed to Saddam Hussein, that doesn’t prove that Zarqawi was working for Saddam’s benefit. Most of those same Kurdish officials, who were opposed to the Ba’athist regime, had developed a serious (and even overt) relationship with the American intelligence agencies, and were opponents of Islamic fundamentalism as well.

Therefore, assassinating them would have been a logical thing for an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist to do, regardless of whether that would be beneficial to Saddam Hussein, as an unintended consequence.

3) That a recently arrived Jordanian, in a totally controlled police state, was so enterprising as to swiftly put himself in possession of maps, city diagrams, large sums of cash, and a group of heavily armed fighters hitherto named after the Iraqi dictator—the Fedayeen Saddam"

Maps and cash aren’t really that hard to come by, and the idea of gaining support from heavily armed fighters from the Fedayeen Saddam, doesn’t really prove anything, even if one accepts the postulation that it were true.

Obviously, after the US invasion of Iraq, many groups who may have been previously opposed to each other would agree to join forces in order to confront a common enemy. It does not mean that they were in cahoots before, just that people in a particular country or region are willing to set aside ideological differences in the face of a foreign invasion and occupation.

History is filled with examples of people and groups, who have put aside their internal disputes in order to confront an external attack, and even records quite a few cases whereby under the pressure of the actual struggle they submerged and even adjusted their philosophical/political orientation to that of the more dominant grouping. Lafayette may have gone to America in order to fight against the hated English, merely based on the traditional Anglo-French rivalry and a desire to achieve martial glory, but he left a firm believer in the “American” idea of constitutional and representative government. In a similar vein, many secular Arab nationalists might very well embrace Islamic fundamentalism in response to the specter of a foreign/infidel occupation of their “Islamic” homeland.

However, to attempt to tie two widely divergent movements together (like Ba’athist Arab Nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism) in this manner, merely to justify an attack on one, based on a prior attack by the other, is to reverse logic. It is to justify based on the anticipation of retaliation, i.e. – we attack them because if we do, they will embrace our enemies, and retaliate.

The idea of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” doesn’t necessarily apply. It is not always the case, but merely a cynical choice, which may or may not be made (either at the time, or in the future). The obverse of that mode of thinking is that “since all my enemies are my enemies, they must all be in league together” which is an emotional rationalization which projects the previous idea onto one’s rivals. It is also common among egocentric people, and the first stage of paranoia.

The claims (or more precisely the series of innuendo) made by Hitchens, with such absolute certitude (and total absence of convincing proof), just demonstrate that he has not only been co-opted by the neo-cons in their unending plans for establishing hegemony based on the possibility of resistance, but that his intellectual arrogance does not allow him to seriously scrutinize the claims which he makes on their behalf.

yeah, Hitch is a complete turd. And a drunk. Don't forget drunk.
Thanks for this Greg. As you said it is much shorter than "Lenin's" offering but it's still longer than my average post.
Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this web site needs a great deal more attention.
I'll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the advice!

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