Jerry Mazza, Online Journal Associate Editor, October 25, 2006
Ian Parker’s recent New Yorker Profile of Christopher Hitchens, “He Knew He Was Right,” aptly subtitled “How a former socialist became the Iraq war’s fiercest defender” is the fastidiously told tale of Christopher Hitchens hitching himself to the Death Star of the administration and its preemptive, unilateral, war on Iraq. May the force wake him up!
Hitchens seems to linger in the darkest recesses of neocon thinking, a far out inner space. I see the maps to World Hegemony hanging on the Dark Star’s war room walls, as in the Pentagon. Though I see Hitchens as naïf in residence, blind to his commanders headed for destruction. Their malevolent destruction of Iraq alone — infrastructure, cities, arable land — has delivered a death toll of 650,000 Iraqis, nearly 3,000 US soldiers, and a $378 billion tab to US taxpayers.
This includes the privatization of the war, yielding untold billions to civilian contractors, Vice President Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, its subsidiary Kellogg Brown Root, as well as CACI. In fact, the profit is pouring into their coffers like vast amounts of blood. They are wallowing in the blood money. Hussein’s decades-long rein pales by comparison, even with its ugly toll of an alleged 300,000 dead.
Then of course there is the oil, the second largest Gulf supply behind the Saudi’s, all conveniently under the thumb of the Texas Oilopoly, controlling supplies and prices, raking in profits; Exxon Mobile sailing to the largest corporate take in US history.
The question is, when Hitchens hitched himself to the Death Star, was he bored with his hard-earned left-wing success, drunk at the wheel, or seduced by the infamous Paul Wolfowitz to America’s leading den of iniquity, the Pentagon (and other dark corners). I believe it was mostly the third, perhaps a splash of the first two as well that led him to it.
Ian Parker quotes Salman Rushdie, a member of Hitchens’ salon, who said laughingly, “I met Paul Wolfowitz. And I discovered to my immense surprise, that he’s a very nice man.
”Wolfowitz,” Parker reminds us is the “neoconservative who served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense between 2001 and 2005, and who now runs the World Bank, and was a primary architect of the invasion of Iraq; he has become the emblem of Hitchens’s new political alignment. Wolfowitz respected Hitchens’s record as a writer on human rights. He called Hitchens in the fall of 2002, at the prompting of Kevin Kellems, then his special adviser, and now an adviser at the World Bank.”
Parker tells us that Kellems said after the call to Hitchens, “It felt like Cold War espionage. Contacting someone on the other side you think might want to defect.” More importantly, Hitchens accepted an “invitation to lunch at the Pentagon,” one might say to make a pact with the devil. Kellems reminds us, “We didn’t put his name on the schedule.” Well, of course, here was a real human being with a notable record of fighting, writing for human rights. Why would you want a name like that, unless to legitimatize the cabal.
In fact, if Hitchens had written nothing but The Trial of Henry Kissinger, definitively documenting Henry Kissinger as a war criminal, responsible for (among other atrocities) the organizing and order to assassinate Salvador Allende, the freely elected president of the democratic state of Chile, Hitchens would remain one of our major left heroes, fast-balling 90 mph sentences into eloquent strikeouts of the bad, the evil, and even worse. What’s more, Hitchens body of work is impressive. His second love is literature, and he can quote poetry like an Oxford don. Hitchens’ degree is from Balliol College, part of the University of Oxford. Lovely learning lending a grace and depth to his writing and speaking.
Back Story to Nowhere
I remember first seeing Hitchens after 9/11 on various talk shows, including the Fox Five Terror Scare-athons. Hitchens was one of the more interesting talking heads, a bit surly, shirt open, hair long, twitching like the three-pack-a-day smoker he is, answering questions with the speed, depth and intensity of a man who perhaps felt they were too easy, insults to his formidable intelligence. You see I admire all that Hitchens can be. All the more reason to lament his loss to the Death Star.
Yet a wise Wolfowitz knew, as Parker points out, Hitchens was “a longtime observer of the cruelty of Saddam Hussein, and had spoken publicly for his removal since 1998. He supported the cause of Kurdish Independence and had been to Halabja and seen the injuries caused there by Iraqi chemical weapons.” I might add those weapons were supplied by the CIA.
Parker notes that “he [Hitchens] was friendly with dissident Iraqis in exile, including Ahmed Chalabi.” Chalabi was convicted and sentenced in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian military tribunal. He faces 17 years in prison, should he again enter Jordan. Parker’s adds to Chalabi’s resume, “now a member of the Iraqi National Congress, which aggressively promoted the notion, now widely discounted, that Saddam was poised to become a nuclear power.”
“ . . . Widely discounted, that Saddam was poised to become a nuclear power” is New Yorker politesse for absolutely untrue and unfounded. Bogus. Lies.
Unfortunately, after 9/11 and the defeat of the Taliban, Parker notes that “he [Hitchens] had thrown himself into the debate over Iraq, making speeches and writing for Slate. Brandishing the nineteen-thirties slogan ‘Fascism Means War,’ he argued that Saddam was something more than a tyrant.” Yes, he was. He was a vicious dictator that George Herbert Walker had installed and then helped to attack Iran, giving him the necessary arms and money, while feeding same to Iran. Leaving a million casualties and another million displaced.
Returning to Parker, “Though he [Hussein] did not have nuclear weapons, he aspired to have them . . .” Would that be like Israel who has had two to three hundred bombs since the ‘60s? Or like Pakistan, Libya or India, who have managed to get the plans or the real thing since? “His [Hussein’s] regime was on the verge of implosion . . .” Well, yes, they were broke after an eight-year war with Iran. Yet Hitchens claims “And better that it should implode under supervision, with the West providing armed resistance to the imminent Iraqi and Kurdish revolutions.” The West had just finished sponsoring both sides in the war. Their true ends were achieved. Revolutions, my Socialist friend, were not in their best interest. Control was.
Parker writes, “Hitchens told me, ‘The number of us who would have criticized Bush if he hadn’t removed Saddam — that’s the smallest minority I’ve ever been a member of.’” Well, time has certainly proved him abysmally wrong. Hitchens not only reveals a total forgetfulness of US involvement in all that had transpired. He also seems ready to join the Coalition of the Very Willing and forget that the CIA previously sponsored Osama and his Mujahideen in 1979 to ’89 to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. And from this group al Qaeda was born, a CIA armed and trained black ops “terror” entity. Is that what happens when you hang around Fox Five studios too long? Is it amnesia, arrogance, alcohol, too many smokes?
The balance of Parker’s sad tale on the mating of Hitchens and Wolfowitz is that the latter felt those of a like mind should be on “closer terms.” Hitchens responds that he had been trying to signal Wolfowitz in his writing and Wolfowitz said, “I wondered.” Egads, all we need now is a score by Alfred E. Newman with syrupy violins and a romantic theme lifted from somewhere. They talked about this and talked about that, “Rwanda, Bosnia, the history of genocide, the cost of inaction.” And what about the genocide Iraq was to become? Also, had Hitchens ever considered why Bush Sr. did not eliminate Saddam when he had the opportunity at the end of Gulf War One? Could it have been that destabilization of the region which would affect the flow of oil? Oil, I repeat, oil, the bread and butter of Texas/America’s industry.
“Finishing Each Other’s Sentences”
Kellems describes the duo of Hitchens and Wolfowitz as “two giant minds unleashed in the room. They were finishing each other’s sentences.” According to Hitchens, “Wolfowitz is a bleeding heart. There are not many Republicans, or Democrats, who lie awake at night worrying about what’s happening to the Palestinians, but he does.” Oh Jesus. And did he worry about what the Likud government was doing to the Palestinians: a little more genocide, finally burying them under a Warsaw Ghetto-like wall.
Hitchens we are told had been “a decades-long agitator for the Palestinian cause; he co-edited a book on the subject with Edward, Said, the late Palestinian-American scholar,” with whom he parted company abruptly before Said’s death. What’s more, Hitchens says, “Wolfowitz wants America’s human-rights ethic to be straight and consistent as far as possible and if there’s an anomaly he’s aware of it.” Was the anomaly that Palestine had been partitioned in 1948 to create Israel, a Zionist militarist state? If so, how do we account for the fact that Hitchens rails against religion co-opting political agendas? Or had lunch and too much wine at the Pentagon and holding political hands with Wolfowitz entirely blurred his sense of history?
On April 9, 2003, after the initial “shock and awe” days, when the destruction of Iraq began with a boom, Hitchens wrote, “So it runs out that all the slogans of the anti-war movement were right after all. And their demands were just. ‘No War on Iraq,’ they said — and there wasn’t a war on Iraq. Indeed, there was barely a ‘war’ at all. ‘No Blood for Oil,’ they cried, and the oil wealth of Iraq has been duly rescued [?] from the attempted sabotage with scarcely a drop spilled.” And why did Mr. Hitchens think that had happened, by accident or with the skilled assistance of James Baker and a cadre of Texas oilmen behind him? Rescued? Kidnapped might be a better word.
Parker reports, “In July 2003,” he [Hitchens] and a few other reporters flew to Baghdad with Wolfowitz.” Ah, Kissinger was right about one thing: Power is the most potent aphrodisiac. Now Hitchens is in love. He says to Fox News, “It’s quite extraordinary to see the way that American soldiers are welcomed.” Welcomed, eh? Is that what the “insurgency” was? A welcoming party?
Coming back home Hitchens says, “To see the work that they’re doing and not just rolling up these filthy networks of Baathists and jihadists, but building schools, opening soccer stadiums, helping people connect to the Internet, there is a really intelligent political program as well as a very tough military one.” He’d bought the bullshit hook, line and sinker. The seduction, the reduction of a brilliant journalist’s critical intelligence to ashes, was complete. His “filthy jihadists” were the original creation of the CIA and Jimmy Carter’s former NSC chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski. ZB invoked for the first time the term “jihad,” a religious war against what he cited as the “atheistic Russians” to stoke the Muslim fighters.
“And three years later,” Parker reports, “Hitchens is still on Fox News talking about the Iraq war. He has not flinched from his position that the [illegal] invasion was necessary, nor declined any serious invitation to defend that position publicly, even as the violence in Iraq has increased, and American opinion has turned against the intervention and the President who launched [it].” I assume these are free appearances, made as a journalist, with no conflict of interest.
And of course, Hitchens still brings “his rhetorical mettle” with him. Great.
Unfortunately, having hitched himself to the Death Star, now the Starship Galactica, coming from another channel, with critics at the cannons, is firing back non-stop. Though ironically, my mission is not to blow the man apart but, like Humpty Dumpty, to put him back together again, if possible. Something happened. He sounds like an MKULTRA victim, brainwashed, on autopilot, slurring, mouthing the script. Could it be the booze and the cigarettes?
In a recent interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, Gay Raz, the interviewer, noted Hitchens was already drinking scotch when he arrived. In the four-hour interview, he went through four double scotches, three merlots and 16 cigarettes. Hitchens claims it helps him think. I believe his dependencies totally interfere with a clear thought process. In fact, somebody should get this guy into a 12-Step program quick. I saw him in two short scenes from an Applause Channel documentary on F. Scott Fitzgerald. He looked like he’d put on 50 pounds (around his waist). The long hair was now a botched short haircut. It was strange. As the ad campaign for the “Negro” College Fund used to say, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
What Went Wrong With Christopher Hitchens?
Does the fascination with booze and tobacco come from boredom with the quotidian as he perceives it? Or, having reached a level of great success as a human rights fighter, did he need a new mountain to climb? Or was it the simple allure of all that power and money, being the ultimate insider, perhaps bumping into Bob Woodward in some Pentagon hallway, in the gray marble maze, in the throbbing intestine and belly of the beast? Or is he a Faust for our time, a new play for Broadway? Or does he want to cross the line from his middle class beginnings, his father a British Navy commander, and his mother from a poor Jewish family? Does he want to cross over to the elite corners of the world he skirted at Oxford? Or to the world he was invited into for a private meeting with Tony Blair? In short, what went wrong with Christopher Hitchens?
He hasn’t touched 9/11 with a stick, especially given the enormous body of evidence that would indicate a conspiracy. He hasn’t bothered to say he doesn’t agree. Instead we get this White House press release from him, “We know we’re at war today and so do they and they will pay and pay and for it (their nihilistic Islamism) [his phrase]. They will rue the day when they decided to challenge civilization and democracy and attempt to replace it with theocracy and barbarism.” Barbarism? Has he heard of depleted uranium, its effect on our troops as well as millions of Iraqis?”
Has he taken a look at Afghanistan lately and the surge in opium production, yielding a bonanza to the CIA and every junkie on earth? Does he know about the Evangelical Christians, that Jesus-loving fundamentalist plurality that helped put Bush in the White House and how they would dominate our political agenda? Has he heard about the rape of Habeas Corpus? Does he lament the lost of constitutional rights to the USAPATRIOT Act? Does he have any knowledge of how the West exploited the Middle East, particularly from WW II on, to gain total control over its oil? This man has come to speak from a dark hole in space, from the heart of the Death Star itself.
For in the News Room of the Dark Star sailing in the outer, outer space of its rhetoric, he sits, no Howard Beale, but a silver-throated, English-accented pitchman for perdition, drowned in substance, kidnapped by the right. Somebody bring him home. Put a cap on the sauce. Get him clear. Get him a hobby. Gardening, for instance, a British gift. Put his hands in the soil to feel its richness, life growing in spite of all odds. Even a Dark Star excreting its uranium-enriched poison into the earth, water and atmosphere. Wake up, Chris,, before it’s too late. Or is it already?
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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