A Better World Without Hitchens

Christopher HitchensThis is amazing. It is an hour long debate between Eric Alterman and Christopher Hitchens. It is mostly a discussion of Hitchens’ support of the Iraq War. The debate takes place right before the 2008 presidential election. It is really worth watching. Alterman is great as usual, and quite reasonable. I don’t completely agree with him; he’s quite a bit more conservative than I am. But Hitchens is just amazing. In this one video, he shows how he had lost all credibility toward the end of his career.

The last decade he was alive, he spent it using his considerable intellect and erudition to avoid admitting that he had been wrong to cheerlead for that war. I won’t take the time, but there must be at least thirty times when he simply lies. (His comment about the Bush administration having to be forced into going to war is contradicted by just about everyone who was around at that time. See, for example, Richard Clarke.) And when he’s not lying, he’s brushing aside important questions with snarky comments. This is a great example of why his death had absolutely no effect on the level of public intellectual discourse. He had long ago gotten out of that business.

It’s interesting that he was an outspoken atheist. First, it was the only thing that kept him relevant in the public. The atheist community found him too amusing to throw away, even though his thinking on religious topics was pathetic. Second, his previous writing in favor of the Iraq War became his own personal Bible. He effectively became an apologist for that corpus. Remember, this is a man who to the end would savage the Ronald Reagan presidency. But he couldn’t say anything bad about Bush. Bush could have been decapitating babies and it would have been okay because he killed that very dangerous man Saddam Hussein. (Funny how the CIA couldn’t be trusted because they over-estimated the strength of the USSR, but Bush is great despite the fact that he over-estimated Hussein hundreds of times worse.)

I’m glad Hitchens is gone (he wouldn’t have to be dead). As a public figure, he was a disaster. He made the world a worse place. Plenty of people do that, of course. But few of them have the brilliance to do good. Christopher Hitchens used his gifts to push for an unnecessary and evil war. And then he spent the rest of his life trying to justify it. He should have either admitted his error or just shut up. We are so much better off without him.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “A Better World Without Hitchens

  1. Interesting. I could argue with both of them all day. A few points. Alterman believes in Obama’s line about how we should have focused on Afghanistan, which I agree with — IF we’d been focused on strengthening local self-sufficiency, not on a military approach. (Obviously any organizers would need some security protection.) That could have helped usher out al-Queada and the Taliban both. But that’s never what Obama was talking about.

    Hitchens’s focus on Iraq is nuts. Hussein was awful, but seriously not as capable of doing harm as many thugs in the world. And for a man who criticized the Vietnam war to believe that attacking Iraq would result in oil revenues being developed to help Iraqis is preposterous. Alterman’s right that the Iraq disaster was foreseen by oh so many; you didn’t have to be a local expert to predict it.

    What maniacs assume that war can have perfectly pleasant benefits? At best, it’s a necessary cruel and vicious instrument. An abusive family member should be counseled, or banned from contact with victims. If the only way to stop violence is to barge in and shoot the abuser dead, that’s better than allowing abuse to happen, but it’s foolish to pretend that won’t cause a great deal of harm even to the people it’s meant to save.

    And motives matter. If a nonviolent resistance movement is led by some involved local group, it may be successful, it may not, it may have unforeseen repercussions to its actions. If those negative repercussions occur, it might adjust what it’s doing, or stubbornly stick to its’ methods, refusing to admit mistakes. Always hard to tell.

    If Halliburton is profiting off war booty, or a hired-mercenary contractor, they will ALWAYS ignore negative repercussions to their actions. Always. They will never give the remotest shit if what they do harms the locals, so long as profit keeps pouring in. And if you’re going to use organizations like that, you’d better expect them to behave that way.

    Hitchens, I believe, was so single-minded in his hatred of religion that he bought into the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz vision of Iraq as the start of a domino train; we’d fix it, then economic competition would cause every (far more fundamentalist) Islamic government to follow suit. (If we’d left Iran alone in 1953, maybe this might have happened.)

    He was far more interested in being unique and controversial than he was in results. Not a crime when it comes to art; but a horrible stance to take when it comes to influencing foreign policy.

  2. @JMF – It’s just so sad to see a once great mind be used to justify this garbage. He could have at least dropped it and moved on.

    I’m not sure, but I think his intense hatred of religion may have come about because of his hatred of the Middle East. (I very much think Hitchens was a bigot.) And why was he so focused on Iraq? Why wasn’t he focused on Saudi Arabia? There was far more religious freedom in Iraq.

    He went from a man who argued as clearly as Gore Vidal to a man who was no better than Bill O’Reilly. Of course, it worked perfectly for the conservative fools. Most of the comments on that video indicated that people though Hitchens "won" the debate. To me it was very clear: Alterman raised a question and Hitchens avoided them with his usual bombast.

    But Hitchens is proof that there is no loving God. Otherwise, he would have killed him off in 2000.

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