I gather Hitchens--the former leftist who discovered there was more fame and money to be had pandering to the American right--is a drunk, and perhaps that explains everything. But his paranoid ranting is getting more unhinged from reality as times goes on, so it may be time to think about a ten-step plan. In any event, his little polemic is instructive along a number of dimensions about the right-wing mindset. Consider:
[A]ll faiths are not always equally demented in the same way, or at the same time. Islam, which was once a civilizing and creative force in many societies, is now undergoing a civil war. One faction in this civil war is explicitly totalitarian and wedded to a cult of death....
Is there any reputable scholar of the Islamic world who thinks this is the situation? I am not aware of any, not even the famously uncharitable Bernard Lewis. But this is minor, so let us move on:
Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left.
Pure fiction, of course: first, because there is no left in American politics; second, because we have just been through a political campaign in which the Democrats were out-toughing the Republicans all the way through (how many times did John Kerry promise to kill, kill, kill?); third, because no one on the marginalized left in America--not Noam Chomsky, not Z Magazine, not Howard Zinn, etc.--has made any of these arguments. Hitchens, of course, cites no one--how could he? Look what he offers by way of "proof" instead:
From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of "despair."
Notice the casual rhetorical trick of assimilating al-Qaida to suicide bombers in Palestine, as though the latter had anything to do with the former, which, of course, they do not. But this has become an increasingly popular right-wing device, which we have seen before, namely, to sweep together all "our enemies" under one umbrella, such that child killers in Beslan are the same as the 9/11 fanatics, and Palestinian suicide bombers are part of the same Islamic death cult invented in the first paragraph. The war planners and propagandists haven't had such a well-constructed fictional enemy since the Cold War.
The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization.
And who exactly said this? No culprits are named, of course. To be sure, someone somewhere has probably uttered every imaginable proposition about questions of political moment, but that isn't what's at issue here. What's at issue here is whether the propositions in question represent some significant current in left-wing critiques of U.S. policy. And this proposition rather obviously does not. Indeed, prior to 9/11, it was only those on the left like Chomsky and liberal journalists like Bob Herbert who even called attention to the fundamentalist zealots in Afghanistan with whom we were so eager to do business.
The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.
I don't even follow the reference here, and my guess is Hitchens doesn't either.
If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).
Ah, yes, the famous parenthetical, in which we bury the actual issue so as not to interefere with the flow of the propaganda. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens hasn't noticed that the local "party of God" has been waging war on Constitutional prohibitions; he could start here, and scroll down for dozens of instances.
George Bush may subjectively be a Christian...
Sorry to interrupt mid-sentence, but this one is such a howler, how does one let it pass? Bush has repeatedly injected his "subjective Christianity" in to his social and political policies and decisions, from meddling with science, to "faith-based" initiatives, to his position on stem cell research; again see here, and keep on scrolling.
...but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries.
What is the actual evidence in support of any of these claims? The Taliban are still active throughout Afghanistan, except Kabul, where American mercenaries and soldiers keep the Afghani President from being killed. (If one wants to have some idea what is actually going on in Afghanistan, this site is a good place to start.) Where are the non-partisan experts who believe that al-Qaida has been weakened? We're not talking drunk journalistic whores and panderers, we're talking actual security experts who aren't in the pay of the U.S. propaganda machine. None are mentioned, needless to say. Hitchens, himself, must realize the size of the lies he is telling, because he immediately turns to the main evidence that Bush & co. have made the situation far worse:
The "antiwar" faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary—that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?
Actually the complaint has never been that "Islamic religious extremists" have been inflamed--what would that even mean?--but rather that the criminal and immoral invasion of Iraq has inflamed hundreds of thousands throughout the Arab and Islamic world, pushing them towards extremism of the kind that is, indeed, dangerous. Hitchens can't present the charge accurately, of course, because it would ruin his little fantasy--just like he can't mention the theocratic movements at home endorsed and emboldened by our "subjective" Christian leader, George W. Bush.
Christopher Hitchens, and his parochial enthusiasts in the U.S., do need to remember that it's a big world out there, and that not everyone is in the thrall of the same fictions and ideological delusions. If you peddle the products of your alcohol-addled imagination as though they were factual and rational, someone is bound to notice and say as much.
Please, "Hitch," call Alcoholics Anonymous today!
UPDATE: Reader Robert Gressis suggests, plausibly, that the reference to Michael Moore, above, is to this posting on his web site, in which Moore makes the banal observation that inhabitants who resist the occupation of their country by a foreign nation, and the puppet government the invaders imposed, may just as well be called freedom fighters. Apparently what has gotten Hitchens agitated is that Moore has not acquiesced in the piece of labelling propaganda common in the U.S. mass media which describes all these individuals as "insurgents" and "enemies," names which presuppose two things which are false: that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was either lawful or morally defensible.