A Cautious Man
December 02, 2004
He Was Just Blinded By The Light
Last night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the guest was Christopher Hitchens talking about his new book. From the description, it seems to be a collection of previously published essays. Anyway, the interview was less about the book, and more about Mr. Hitchens appearing as, well, almost a caricature of himself (sort of a cross between William F. Buckley and Foster Brooks). He ambled onto the stage and over to his seat, clutching a paper cup (from which he continued to sip). Jon Stewart seemed amused by him (and he was amusing, sort of), as he slurred his way through some of his top themes, especially his continued defense of the Iraq invasion.

As best as I can tell, Mr. Hitchens has arrived at his pro-Iraq war stance via his trademark anti-everything involving religion. The 9/11 attackers were just another set of religious fanatics, a term he uses to describe anybody from a suicide bomber to Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa. His new book appears to be an attempt to collect his various essays in support of his position. Listening to him last night, however, it occurred to me that his obsessive embrace of the Administration's choice to use warfare, is keeping him from appreciating the value of different approaches.

He made one good point last night, that we are not "at war with Islam". Instead, there is a struggle going on among various political and social movements in parts of the world with large Muslim populations. We are allied with some of those factions, such as the Kurds (of whom Mr. Hitchens often writes). He noted that our great task is to find, and ally ourselves with, those Muslims who reject the Osama Bin Laden view of where Islam should be going. And, that's why I think that he has prevented himself from recognizing the downside of the Iraq invasion – Iraq was not really a Bin Laden ally, and invading Iraq earned us the enmity of many people who never really cared for Bin Laden. So, the invasion effectively took us further from the goal of finding more allies in the Muslim world.

As I said, he mentioned the Kurds, and how they had been an insurgency against Saddam Hussein for a long time. But, one has to contrast the present situation, after our invasion, with the Kurds in Iraq as described by Mr. Hitchens before that invasion:
What would the lifting of the no-fly zones mean for the people who live under them? I recently sat down with my old friend Dr. Barham Salih, who is the elected prime minister of one sector of Iraqi Kurdistan. Neither he nor his electorate could be mentioned if it were not for the no-fly zones imposed--as a result of democratic protest in the West--at the end of the last Gulf War. In his area of Iraq, "regime change" has already occurred. There are dozens of newspapers, numerous radio and TV channels, satellite dishes, Internet cafes. Four female judges have been appointed. Almost half the students at the University of Sulaimaniya are women. And a pro al Qaeda group, recently transferred from Afghanistan, is trying to assassinate the Kurdish leadership and nearly killed my dear friend Barham just the other day.... Now, why would this gang want to make that particular murder its first priority?

Before you face that question, consider this. Dr. Salih has been through some tough moments in his time. Most of the massacres and betrayals of the Kurdish people of Iraq took place with American support or connivance. But the Kurds have pressed ahead with regime change in any case. Surely a "peace movement" with any principles should be demanding that the United States not abandon them again.
Under the circumstances, with a stable Kurdish north in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein pinned down with inspectors in the country, why would Mr. Hitchens have thought that rolling the tanks into Baghdad was the best approach? I think he put a little too much faith, as it were, in the Bush Administration, simply because they had already bombed some of those fanatics (and a lot of other people) in Afghanistan. Now, he's a "true believer", no matter how much damage this war has inflicted, even in places that had previously been relatively stable.



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