January 21, 2003
The following letter hasn't yet not been published by The Stranger. But it is sure to not be published within the next few days. It did, at least, put a special page full of letters in response onto its website.
Christopher Hitchens' unrelenting drive to wrest the title "Dirigible of Drivel" from Limbaugh's gaping orifice has now touched down upon Seattle's own Stranger, begging the Seattle peace community to get on behind the Bush Administration's war on Iraq.
Amusingly, Hitchens' Stranger bio boasts that his latest book is entitled Why Orwell Matters. That being the case, and in lieu of a point-by-point rebuttal, how about some random calling of bullshit on Hitchens' doublethink?
"Ever since [September 11], the United States has been at war with the forces of reaction. May I please entreat you to reread the preceding sentence?" Uh, okay. Is this why we're planning to attack the most secular nation in the region? Or, is this why we're so buddy-buddy with Saudia Arabia, Pakistan, the "Northern Alliance", Israel, et al.? Or, is this why Bush himself originally declared a "crusade" against bin Laden?
"To these people, the concept of a civilian casualty is meaningless." Yeah. But Colin "It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in" Powell is losing sleep over the hundreds of thousands civilians expected to be killed, and the million or more refugees expected to be created by the next Gulf War? Or the civilian devastation wrought by the use of Depleted Uranium munitions and the intentional destruction of civilian infrastructure?
"If the counsel of the peaceniks had been followed...Kosovo would have been emptied of most of its inhabitants." Even though there were zero refugees before the bombing started. Milosevic's crack-down was indeed criminal, but the crack-down began after the initiation of bombing, and the refugees were fleeing not only the crack-down, but also the bombing itself.
"The first [of three "well-established" reasons to favour "regime change"] is the flouting by Saddam Hussein of every known law on genocide and human rights." Which the U.S. avidly supported at the time, and for which Donald Rumsfeld now wants Saddam to be granted immunity from prosecution of. And for which hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis deserve to be killed, apparently.
"The second is the persistent effort by Saddam's dictatorship to acquire the weapons of genocide." But the U.S., Israel, Russia, India, Pakistan, France, China -- hell, and even North Korea -- are allowed to acquire such weapons without reprisal. The U.S. is also allowed to use them whenever the fuck it feels like it.
"The third is the continuous involvement by the Iraqi secret police in the international underworld of terror and destabilization. I could write a separate essay on the evidence for this." But why bother? Just believe me, okay?
"And I shall add that any 'peace movement' that even pretends to care for human rights will be very shaken by what will be uncovered when the Saddam Hussein regime falls. Prisons, mass graves, weapon sites... just you wait." Oh, now I remember: it's not members of the Bush Administration, but the peace movement that rabidly supported Saddam's worst human rights abuses as they occurred and that now wants him to be granted immunity from prosecution for them. How silly of me to forget.
"Do you mean that oil isn't worth fighting for, or that oil resources aren't worth protecting?" Perhaps we mean that they don't belong to us. Or perhaps that global warming blows. Or, maybe, just maybe, that perhaps the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians isn't worth securing the easy access by the multinationals to them.
"Do you recall that Saddam Hussein ignited the oilfields of Kuwait when he was in retreat, and flooded the local waterways with fire and pollution?" Impeccable logic, sir! Another U.S. attack will likely elicit another attempt by Saddam to destroy our oil, touching off another ecological catastrophe. Therefore, let's attack!
"Are you indifferent to the possibility that such a man might be able to irradiate the oilfields next time?" No, nor are we indifferent to the certainty that the U.S. will irradiate the rest of the country the next time. That's why we're opposed to there being a "next time". Oh, my head hurts.
"OF COURSE it's about oil, stupid." Yeah, we already knew that.
"To say that he might also do all these terrible things if attacked or threatened is to miss the point." Begging your forgiveness. But the point isn't that he might "also" do these terrible things if attacked, but that he'd only do these terrible things if attacked.
"The Iraqi and Kurdish peoples are now, by every measure we have or know, determined to be rid of him." Maybe we can let them vote upon the efficacy of a U.S. invasion on their "behalf"?
"And the hope, which is perhaps a slim one but very much sturdier than other hopes, is that the next Iraqi regime will be better and safer, not just from our point of view but from the points of view of the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples." Very slim, indeed. But it seems like an okay risk from where we're sitting (after all, we won't be running from the bombs): we kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in order to "change" their regime, on the essentially nonexistent chances that the next regime will be "better and safer".
"The sanctions policy, which was probably always hopeless, is now quite indefensible. If lifted, it would only have allowed Saddam's oligarchy to re-equip. But once imposed, it was immoral and punitive without the objective of regime change. Choose." It in fact strengthened Saddam's grip over the population. But, no possibility, alas, of ending the sanctions regime while at the same time discontinuing the repeated bombing raids, cleaning up the Depleted Uranium, insisting upon region-wide disarmament (as mandated by UN 687), and supporting genuinely democratic movements within the Iraq (not to mention the region and world at large)? Didn't think so. Okay, then, we choose sanctions. What the heck, "we think the price is worth it".
"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." But not imposed until after the U.S. watched (and/or aided in) Saddam's brutal putting down of the incipient rebellion which threatened to topple his regime entirely. How convenient.
"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." Sure, we can demand it. But why would we think, having abandoned them twice before, that the U.S. wouldn't do it again? And why would not invading Iraq -- in other words, not provoking Saddam to crack down again, thereby leaving intact the popular, autonomous institutions already in place in Iraqi Kurdistan -- constitute an abandonment? It's at the least an illogical supposition, isn't it?
"I like to think I could picture a mass picket in Seattle, offering solidarity with Kurdistan against a government of fascistic repression." You're talking about Turkey, right? Not to downplay the brutality of Saddam's fascistic repression. But it's not at the moment "against" the Kurds, while Turkey's fascistic repression currently is against the Kurds. O miserable world. But, yeah, a Seattle demonstration opposing U.S. support of governments of fascistic repression would be the tops.
"Instead, there is a self-satisfied isolationism to be found, which seems to desire mainly a quiet life for Americans." Or, maybe, a "quiet life" for America's victims. Do ya think?
Okay, maybe that was pretty close to point-by-point after all. But shit-howdy, this piece contained more instances of doublethink per column-inch that probably even Dubya hisself could deliver.
Posted by Eddie Tews at January 21, 2003 07:30 PM