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April 21, 2004

Hitchens and I

According to the personal answer I got last evening from Christopher Hitchens, I've been right all along to suggest exactly what I've been moaning about. Americans who have abandoned the cause of the Kurds and others who have rebelled against Saddam Hussein are our greatest source of national shame.

I found out just this afternoon, and it infuriates me to know I must be that far out of the loop, that Hitchens and Martin Amis would be at Royce Hall this evening. The hall didn't sell out, and I managed to deal with a kind bloke a Jackson for a seat in the fourth row. It was from that fourth row that I stood as the second person selected from the audience to speak.

The first, some woman from Seattle, had managed to get the pair reduced to telling dick jokes, if you can believe that. The theme was exchanging the word 'dick' for 'heart' in the titles of popular songs. I hated to embarrass them at their own game and added at the end of that session 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' in back reference to Hitch's excellent dis of al Sadr as a true wanker. Had I decided to also mention the other classic they forgot 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around' it would have inappropriately continued a sort of levity that needed to cease considering the gravity of my real question. I asked if in our pursuit of ridding the world of Jihadists whether or not we had punished Socialists quite enough. With a brief reference to my incurable sobbing over Koba the Dread, I further asked if we should be concerned with some resurgence of that particular kind of terror. The short answer was no, but that is not what one pays such literary folks to say, and thankfully so because their responses illuminated much.

Amis piped up to say that in his reading of history the death of God was indeed final and into that void filled the cults of ideology. Devotion to Maoism, Stalinism and several other isms I forget replaced devotion to God in the modern world, and the overproduction of these (misplaced is not what he said) loyalties produced catastrophes of historical magnitude. On the whole I found Amis to be rather subdued the entire evening but his was a fine answer. It indicates, as does his respect for the power of the myth of Christ (even via Gibson), that his respect for religion is somewhat similar to mine. But more on that later. Hitchens' angle on this was curiouser still, since he was indeed once a Socialist. It was through his response that we turned to the Kurdish rebel soldiers. There used to be a cool name for them that we have forgotten.

Hitchens had, in response to Brian Lamb some time ago answered three questions of himself with regard the current and future status of a secular, internationalist socialist program and came resolutely to the conclusion that there was no future in it. The best work of Socialism is behind us and it will not at any time in the future provide a mandate returning to power. Certainly many millions have been improved by the work of socialism. Certainly the Marxist critique of capitalism and of history in fact, cannot be outdone according to Hitchens, but there is nobody on the planet with a better idea than global capitalism. So we are in 100% agreement. Fabulous. This was all good, but his next step blew me away. Hitch thus doesn't disown the analytical tools of Marxist theory and he gives credit where credit is due internationalist, secular socialists. Then specifically he talked about his association with precisely those parties in Iraq, Kurds and Shia among them, as they battled against the tyranny that was Saddam Hussein.

Hussein literally tortured his foreign ministers. He would torture them for days before he sent them on UN missions. These men lived in such fear of Husseins's wrath that they would say exactly what he wished in contradiction to any and all logic and reason. No amount of time spent with Kofi Annan would make an ounce of difference. But what really got Hitchens' shorts hitched up was the suggestion that the militant jagoffs under head Wanker al Sadr would merit the honorific of 'insurgent'. These weren't insurgents, and the internationalist secular left of America, following the airheaded lead of the likes of Michael Moore, in order to score points against GWBush, ought to be lashed for this unforgivable abandonment of the true insurgents of Iraq, those Kurds and Shia who were left dangling after the first Gulf War.

It was, for me, a resounding endorsement of what I've been saying for over a year and I am satisfied to have this confirmed in such a dramatic fashion by none other than Hitch himself.

UPDATE: Background on CH mindstate.

Posted by mbowen at April 21, 2004 12:22 AM

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Nice post, full of depth, and the link to CH is very good. I'm not going to counter it because I think it stands well. Hussein = Stalin. Tying Hussein to 9/11 may have been disingenuous, but there's not much lost in making 9/11 the excuse to take out Hussein.

The thing we'll never know is if the people of Iraq would have risen against Hussein on their own momentum, given the way the inspectors and our Air Force tied him down. The thing we will know is if moving against Iraq matters at all in assembling the country into something we might better like. To have deposed Stalin is only half a success; if what replaces him is equally Stalinist, we'll have made a huge effort in vain.

Posted by: joseph at April 21, 2004 06:41 PM

Mr. Cobb.
Enjoyed reading your thoughts. I am the "some woman from Seattle" who asked the dick question to Amisky and Hitch. your examples were great! :)
Thank you for elaborating on your relevant Q & its A in your report,"Hitch and I," April 21, 2004
Hitchens and I. We are among the minority, it seems, who agree with Hitchens on reasons he gave for our continuous presence in the Iraq war.

Did you happen to catch the debate with Hitch last Sunday that was telecast on CSPAN (UCLA campus) held at the LA Times Festival? Hitch elaborated brilliantly on the rationality of America's exigency* in Iraq.
Panel: US and Iraq One Year Later: Right to Get In? Wrong to Get Out? 2 hrs.
Christopher Hitchens, "A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq"
Mark Danner, "The Massacre at El Mozote"
Michael Ignatieff, "The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror"
Robert Scheer, co-author, The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq"
Steve Wasserman, Los Angeles Times Book Review editorModerator

Sincerely yours,
Jules clinch

*Main Entry: exigency
Pronunciation: 'ek-s&-j&n(t)-sE, ig-'zi-j&n(t)-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
Date: 1581
1 : that which is required in a particular situation usually used in plural
2 a : the quality or state of being exigent b : a state of affairs that makes urgent demands
synonym see JUNCTURE

Posted by: jules at April 27, 2004 02:21 PM

Re: "posted by mbowen at April 21, 2004"
Correction: my intented post was for Mr. M. Bowen to whom i wanted to thank for his informative article: "Hitch and Me."

Posted by: jules at April 27, 2004 02:25 PM

Hey thanks Jules, Cobb is Bowen is me. I would have liked to see Hitch demolish Scheer and I'll be searching for a transcript. I was at the book fair Saturday with the offspring in the unbearable crush and heat. I couldn't bear another day...

Sorry for being a bit uncharitable. In retrospect the light moments made it a much more enjoyable evening, deflates the swelled heads a bit.

Posted by: Cobb at April 27, 2004 02:44 PM

dear Michael Bowen
Your comments from "Hitchens and I" were introduced to me at the Martin Amis Discussion site, affectionately known to the (w)elite there as MAD.
The post is unner the subject is"Cobb mentioned the dick-woman in his blogthread" i nan effort to tease me the token female who the MADmen havent managed to fend off the board. There is a thread now with replies. You might want to go there, since poster, "Saul's Talking Hiney" (!) published your photo above quoting you. Very nice, i might add.
Anyway i was touched by your comments about having to stop reading from tearing the pages of Koba! in the Q&A part of the Amis/Hitchens evening at UCLA.

(Just for fun)did you know that actors, Michael York and Warren Beauty and his wife, Annette Bening, were in the audience with us that night?

Posted by: jules at April 27, 2004 09:55 PM

You must see Chritopher Hitchens absolutely cream Robert Scheer in the LA Times debate on the war. As my girlfriend in L.A. said, who saw it on CSPAN like me, Hitch made Scheer so mad he came across on the screen like a postmodern Hitler, ranting, spewing aspersions of "how dare you's" back at Hitch. You must try to find the tape--it has to be available--and view to your satisfaciton the left fall to the wayside with the wit of Hitch and the birllaint analyses ofthe philohper, Michael Ignatieff. It's like candy for the mind, or IMHO, literary pornography-:)
i recorded it
Hitch added into the mike under his breath, (after calling the opposing war-is-bad-so-let's-leave- Iraq-to-the-mullahs-Lefties,'wicked fools) Pathetic." Twice.

Posted by: jules at April 27, 2004 10:09 PM

I had no idea, although I saw somebody who looked as if he were somebody.

Posted by: cobb at April 28, 2004 07:55 AM