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Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 392
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    Christopher Hitchens and His Critics
    Book Description:

    Christopher Hitchens - political journalist, cultural critic, public intellectual and self-described contrarian - is one of the most controversial and prolific writers of his generation. His most recent book, God Is Not Great, was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007 for months. Like his hero, George Orwell, Hitchens is a tireless opponent of all forms of cruelty, ideological dogma, religious superstition and intellectual obfuscation. Once a socialist, he now refers to himself as an unaffiliated radical. As a thinker, Hitchens is perhaps best viewed as post-ideological, in that his intellectual sources and solidarities are strikingly various (he is an admirer of both Leon Trotsky and Kingsley Amis) and cannot be located easily at any one point on the ideological spectrum. Since leaving Britain for the United States in 1981, Hitchens's thinking has moved in what some see as contradictory directions, but he remains an unapologetic and passionate defender of the Enlightenment values of secularism, democracy, free expression, and scientific inquiry. The global turmoil of the recent past has provoked intense dispute and division among intellectuals, academics, and other commentators. Hitchens's writing during this time, particularly after 9/11, is an essential reference point for understanding the genesis and meaning of that turmoil - and the challenges that accompany it. This volume brings together Hitchens's most incisive reflections on the war on terror, the war in Iraq, and the state of the contemporary Left. It also includes a selection of critical commentaries on his work from his former leftist comrades, a set of exchanges between Hitchens and various left-leaning interlocutors (such as Studs Terkel, Norman Finkelstein, and Michael Kazin), and an introductory essay by the editors on the nature and significance of Hitchens's contribution to the world of ideas and public debate. In response, Hitchens provides an original afterword, written for this collection. Whatever readers might think about Hitchens, he remains an intellectual force to be reckoned with. And there is no better place to encounter his current thinking than in this provocative volume.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6282-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Simon Cottee and Thomas Cushman
  4. Introduction: Terror, Iraq, and the Left
    (pp. 1-36)

    Christopher Hitchens—political journalist, cultural critic, and public intellectual—is one of the most controversial and prolific writers in the English-speaking world.² A contributor to a daunting variety of newspapers, magazines, and periodicals and the author of sixteen books, Hitchens has written on an extraordinarily wide range of subjects: Leon Trotsky, Kingsley Amis, Route 66, Saul Bellow, Bob Dylan, the death penalty, holocaust denial, Michael Moore, Bosnia, Mother Teresa, Mel Gibson, the Kurds, North Korea, and the Taliban.³ On these and countless other subjects, Hitchens brings to bear a thrillingly volatile combination of analytical rigor, an exceptional breadth of reading...

    • 1 American Society Can Outlast or Absorb Practically Anything Independent, September 16, 2001
      (pp. 39-42)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Any attempt at a forward look is still compromised by the dreadful, fascinated glance over the shoulder. A week when the United States itself was a “no-fly zone” from coast to coast. The wolfish parting of the lips as the second of the evil twins hastened towards New York, and saw that its sibling had already smashed and burnt the first of the harmless twins. (Truly, God must be great.) Then the scything of the second innocent twin. The weird void. The faint echoes of heroism from the fuselage of a United Airlines jet over Pennsylvania, as its condemned passengers...

    • 2 The Pursuit of Happiness Is at an End London Evening Standard, September 19, 2001
      (pp. 42-44)
      Christopher Hitchens

      This is what a missing limb must feel like. I don’t just mean the amputated feeling one gets when contemplating the New York skyline, which is what I’m doing at the moment. Nor the bizarre and weird emotions that occur at the realization that while I still live in Washington DC—the capital of the free world—it is now the only capital on the planet whose airport is indefinitely closed.

      I spent some of last week stranded in a time and space-warp, caught in the first-ever American no-fly zone. And much of the time I couldn’t get a phone...

    • 3 Against Rationalization Nation, September 20, 2001
      (pp. 44-46)
      Christopher Hitchens

      It was in Peshawar, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier, as the Red Army was falling apart and falling back. I badly needed a guide to get me to the Khyber Pass, and I decided that what I required was the most farouche-looking guy with the best command of English and the toughest modern automobile. Such a combination was obtainable, for a price. My new friend rather wolfishly offered me a tour of the nearby British military cemetery (a well-filled site from the Victorian era) before we began. Then he slammed a cassette into the dashboard. I braced myself for the ululations...

    • 4 Of Sin, the Left, and Islamic Fascism Nation (Online), October 8, 2001
      (pp. 47-52)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Not all readers liked my attack on the liberal/left tendency to “rationalize” the aggression of September 11, or my use of the term “fascism with an Islamic face,” and I’ll select a representative example of the sort of “thinking” that I continue to receive on my screen, even now. This jewel comes from Sam Husseini, who runs the Institute for Public Accuracy in Washington, DC: “The fascists like Bid-Laden could not get volunteers to stuff envelopes if Israel had withdrawn from Jerusalem like it was supposed to—and the US stopped the sanctions and the bombing on Iraq.”

      You’ve heard...

    • 5 Ha Ha Ha to the Pacifists Guardian, November 14, 2001
      (pp. 52-54)
      Christopher Hitchens

      There was a time in my life when I did a fair bit of work for the tempestuous Lucretia Stewart, then editor of the American Express travel magazine,Departures. Together, we evolved a harmless satire of the slightly driveling style employed by the journalists of tourism. “Land of Contrasts” was our shorthand for it. (“Jerusalem: an enthralling blend of old and new.” “South Africa: a harmony in black and white.” “Belfast, where ancient meets modern.”) It was as you can see, no difficult task. I began to notice a few weeks ago that my enemies in the “peace” movement had...

    • 6 Stranger in a Strange Land Atlantic Monthly (December 2001)
      (pp. 54-59)
      Christopher Hitchens

      October 6, the day immediately preceding the first US counterstroke against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, found me on a panel at the New York Film Festival. The discussion, on the art of political cinema, had been arranged many months before. But as the chairman announced, the events of September 11 would now provide the atmospheric conditioning for our deliberations. I thus sat on a stage with Oliver Stone, who spoke with feeling about something he termed “the revolt of September 11,” and with bell hooks, who informed a well-filled auditorium of the Lincoln Center that those who had...

    • 7 Saving Islam from bin Laden The Age, September 5, 2002
      (pp. 59-62)
      Christopher Hitchens

      In Nigeria a young woman sits holding a baby and awaiting a sentence of death. The baby is the main, if not indeed the sole, evidence against her. The baby is proof positive that the young woman has engaged in sexual intercourse. The form that the appointed death sentence will take is death by stoning, death in public, death that will make a crowd of participants into killers and the baby into a motherless child.

      Why is this happening? It is happening because the Islamic forces in the northern regions of Nigeria want to impose Sharia law, the primitive Muslim...

    • 8 It’s a Good Time for War Boston Globe (Online), September 8, 2002
      (pp. 62-69)
      Christopher Hitchens

      In several of his demented sermons, in the days before he achieved global notoriety, Osama bin Laden made his followers a sort of promise. Defeating the Red Army in Afghanistan and bringing down the Soviet Union, he said, had been the hard part. The easy part—the destruction of the United States of America—was still to come. That task would be easy because America was corrupt and cowardly and rotten. It would not fight (as the debacle in Somalia had shown); it was a slave of the Jewish conspiracy; it cared only for comfort and materialism.

      It involves no...

    • 9 Inside the Islamic Mafia Slate, September 25, 2003
      (pp. 70-73)
      Christopher Hitchens

      I remember laughing out loud, in what was admittedly a mirthless fashion, when Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, one of Osama bin Laden’s most heavy-duty deputies, was arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Straining to think of an apt comparison, I fail badly. But what if, say, the Unabomber had been found hiding out in the environs of West Point or Fort Bragg? Rawalpindi is to the Pakistani military elite what Sandhurst is to the British, or St Cyr used to be to the French. It’s not some boiling slum: It’s the manicured and well-patrolled suburb of the officer class, very handy for the...

    • 10 Al Qaeda’s Latest Target Slate, November 18, 2003
      (pp. 73-76)
      Christopher Hitchens

      When I am at home, I never go near the synagogue unless, say, there is a bar or bat mitzvah involving the children of friends. But when I am traveling, in a country where Jewish life is scarce or endangered, I often make a visit to the shul. I always feel vaguely foolish doing this (the sensation of being a slight impostor is best conveyed in “Christian” terms by Philip Larkin’s marvelous poem “Churchgoing”) but as a result I have seen some fascinating evidences of survival in Damascus, in Havana, in Dubrovnik, in Sarajevo, and in Budapest, among other places....

    • 11 To Die in Madrid Slate, March 15, 2004
      (pp. 77-79)
      Christopher Hitchens

      I can remember when I was a bit of an ETA fan myself. It was in 1973, when a group of Basque militants assassinated Adm. Carrero Blanco. The admiral was a stone-faced secret police chief, personally groomed to be the successor to the decrepit Francisco Franco. His car blew up, killing only him and his chauffeur with a carefully planted charge, and not only was the world well rid of another fascist, but, more important, the whole scheme of extending Franco’s rule was vaporized in the same instant. The dictator had to turn instead to Crown Prince Juan Carlos, who...

    • 12 Murder by Any Other Name Slate, September 7, 2004
      (pp. 79-82)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Not to exaggerate or generalize or anything, but in the past week or so it seems to have become very slightly less OK to speak of jihad as an understandable reaction to underlying Muslim grievances. The murder of innocents in a Russian school may have been secondarily the result of a panic or a bungle by Vladimir Putin’s “special forces,” but nobody is claiming that the real responsibility lies anywhere but on the shoulders of the Muslim fanatics. And the French state’s policy of defending secularism in its schools may have been clumsily and even “insensitively” applied, but nobody says...

    • 13 Bush’s Secularist Triumph Slate, November 9, 2004
      (pp. 82-84)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Many are the cheap and easy laughs in which one could indulge at the extraordinary, pitiful hysteria of the defeated Democrats. “Kerry won,” according to one e-mail I received from Greg Palast, to whom the Florida vote in 2000 is, and always will be, a combination of Gettysburg and Waterloo. According to Nikki Finke of theLA Weekly, the Fox News channel “called” Ohio for Bush for reasons too sinister to enumerate. Gregory Maniatis, whose last communication to me had predicted an annihilating Democratic landslide, kept quiet for only a day or so before forwarding the details on how to...

    • 14 Jihad in the Netherlands Free Inquiry (February/March 2005)
      (pp. 85-87)
      Christopher Hitchens

      In 2003, at a conference held in Sweden, I was introduced to a member of the Netherlands parliament. She was a woman of hypnotizing beauty named Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who had become a star of the Dutch Liberal Party. Originally from Somalia, she had fled her country of origin in order to escape from genital mutilation and the real possibility that her family might sell her to a strange man twice her age. Becoming fluent in English and Dutch and radiating charisma, she had soon attracted attention by criticizing the refusal of the Muslim establishment in her adopted country to...

    • 15 We Cannot Surrender Mirror, July 8, 2005
      (pp. 87-90)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Somewhere around London at about a quarter to nine yesterday morning, there must have been people turning on their TV and radio sets with a look of wolfish expectation.

      I hope and believe that they were disappointed in what they got. There just wasn’t quite enough giggle-value for the psychopath.

      It must have been infernal underneath King’s Cross, but above ground no panic, no screaming, no wailing and beating the air, no yells for vengeance.

      I’m writing this in the early aftermath, but I would be willing to bet there will have been little or no bloody foolishness, either: no...

    • 16 Yes, London Can Take It Weekly Standard, July 18, 2005
      (pp. 90-93)
      Christopher Hitchens

      If one must have cliché and stereotype (and evidently one must) then I would nominate the sturdy phlegmatic Londoner as the stock character who deserves to survive for at least another generation. Woken in the dark on the early morning of 7 July, and given the news that I and all British people had been expecting for some time, I made haste to turn on the television and was confronted at once by a man in his 30s with a shirt-front coated in blood. He was bleeding from his scalp, but was quite evenly telling his excited interviewer that “the...

    • 17 Why Ask Why? Slate, October 3, 2005
      (pp. 93-96)
      Christopher Hitchens

      The return of murderous nihilism to Bali is highly instructive. It shows, first, that the fanatics of Islamism don’t know how to stop. And it also shows that they never learn. How can Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which almost ruined Indonesia’s economy by its filthy attack three years ago, possibly have tried to repeat the same crime in the same place? If we look for answers to this question, we shall find answers that completely discredit the current half-baked apologies for terrorism.

      I remember going to Bali from Jakarta in the summer of 2003. I had already toured the wreckage of...

    • 18 Appointment in Samarra? Nation, September 30, 2002
      (pp. 99-101)
      Christopher Hitchens

      How would people be discussing the issue of “regime change” in Iraq if the question were not being forced upon them by the Administration? In other words, is the American and European and international audience for this debate no more than just that—an audience, complete with theater critics and smart-ass reviewers? Or to put the matter in still another way, would the topic of “regime change” be dropped if the Bush White House were not telegraphing all its military intentions toward Iraq while continuing to make an eerie secret of its political ones?

      I approach this question as one...

    • 19 Taking Sides Nation, October 14, 2002
      (pp. 101-104)
      Christopher Hitchens

      I suppose I can just about bear to watch the “inspections” pantomime a second time. But what I cannot bear is the sight of French and Russian diplomats posing and smirking with Naji Sabry, Iraq’s foreign minister, or with Tariq Aziz. I used to know Naji and I know that two of his brothers, Mohammed and Shukri, were imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein—in Mohammed’s case, tortured to death. The son of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was sentenced to twenty-two years of imprisonment last year; he has since been released and rearrested and released again, partly no doubt...

    • 20 So Long, Fellow Travelers Washington Post, October 20, 2002
      (pp. 104-108)
      Christopher Hitchens

      George Bush made a mistake when he referred to the Saddam Hussein regime as “evil.” Every liberal and leftist knows how to titter at such black-and-white moral absolutism. What the president should have done, in the unlikely event that he wanted the support of America’s peace-mongers, was to describe a confrontation with Saddam as the “lesser evil.”

      This is a term the Left can appreciate. Indeed, “lesser evil” is part of the essential tactical rhetoric of today’s Left, and has been deployed to excuse or overlook the sins of liberal Democrats, from President Clinton’s bombing of Sudan to Madeleine Albright’s...

    • 21 I Wanted It to Rain on Their Parade Mirror, February 18, 2003
      (pp. 108-111)
      Christopher Hitchens

      I had hoped that it would pour with rain during last Saturday’s march for “peace.”

      Why? Exactly a week earlier in northern Iraq, a brave minister of the autonomous Kurdish government was foully done to death by a bunch of bin Laden clones calling themselves Ansar al-Islam.

      Shawkat Mushir was lured under a flag of truce into a dirty ambush, in which he and several innocent bystanders—including an eight-year-old girl—were murdered.

      There is already war in this part of Iraq, and on one side stands an elected Kurdish government with a multi-party system, 21 newspapers, four female judges, and a...

    • 22 Weapons and Terror Slate, May 20, 2003
      (pp. 112-114)
      Christopher Hitchens

      It’s fascinating to be this far into the post-Saddam period and still to be arguing about weapons, about terror, and about Saddam. According to one school, the total effect of the whole thing has been to expose WMD claims as a sham, ratchet up the terror network, and give Saddam a chance at a populist comeback.

      I don’t think that this can be quite right. I still want to reserve my position on whether anything will be found, but I did write before the war, and do state again (in my upcoming bookA Long Short War) that obviously there...

    • 23 Restating the Case for War Slate, November 5, 2003
      (pp. 114-119)
      Christopher Hitchens

      The following is a dense paragraph of apparent prescience that was first published in 1998:

      Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in “mission creep,” and incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well....

    • 24 The Literal Left Slate, December 4, 2003
      (pp. 120-122)
      Christopher Hitchens

      The truly annoying thing that I find when I am arguing with opponents of the regime-change policy in Iraq is their dogged literal-mindedness. “Your side said that coalition troops would be greeted with ‘sweets and flowers!’” Well, I have seen them with my own eyes being ecstatically welcomed in several places. “But were there actualsweets and flowers?” Then again, “You said there was an alliance between bin Laden and Saddam, and now people think that Saddam was behind 9/11.” Well, the administration hasn’t said there was a 9/11 connection, but there are reams of verifiable contact between Al Qaeda...

    • 25 Guerrillas in the Mist Slate, January 2, 2004
      (pp. 122-125)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Having been screened by the special operations department of the Pentagon last August,The Battle of Algiersis now scheduled for a run at the New York Film Forum. Unless I am wrong, this event will lead to a torrent of pseudo-knowing piffle from the armchair guerrillas (well, there ought to be a word for this group). I myself cherished the dream of being something more than an armchair revolutionary when I first saw this electrifying movie. It was at a volunteer work-camp for internationalists, in Cuba in the summer of 1968. Che Guevara had only been dead for a...

    • 26 Fallujah Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2004
      (pp. 125-127)
      Christopher Hitchens

      There must be a temptation, when confronted with the Dantesque scenes from Fallujah, to surrender to something like existential despair. The mob could have cooked and eaten its victims without making things very much worse. One especially appreciated the detail of the heroes who menaced the nurses, when they came to try and remove the charred trophies.

      But this “Heart of Darkness” element is part of the case for regimechange to begin with. A few more years of Saddam Hussein, or perhaps the succession of his charming sons Uday and Qusay, and whole swathes of Iraq would have looked like...

    • 27 Vietnam? Slate, April 12, 2004
      (pp. 128-130)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Here is how the imperialist plot in Iraq was proceeding until recently. The Shiite Muslim pilgrimages to Najaf and Karbala and the Sunni pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina had been recommenced after a state ban that had lasted for years and been enforced in blood. A new dinar had been minted, without the face of the dictator, and was on its way to becoming convertible. (Indeed, recent heists at the Beirut and Baghdad airports suggested that the Iraqi currency was at last worth stealing.) The deliberately parched and scorched wetlands of the south were being re-flooded. At the end of...

    • 28 Second Thinking Slate, April 19, 2004
      (pp. 131-133)
      Christopher Hitchens

      At least there’s no question about the flavor of the week. It’s a scoop of regime-change second-thoughts, with a dash of “who lost Iraq by gaining it?” Colin Powell, who has never been wise before any event (he was for letting Bosnia slide and didn’t want even to move an aircraft carrier on the warning—which he didn’t believe—that Saddam was about to invade Kuwait), always has Bob Woodward at his elbow when he wants to be wise afterwards. Richard Clarke has never been asked any questions about his insistence that the United States stay away from Rwanda. Many...

    • 29 Abu Ghraib Isn’t Guernica Slate, May 9, 2005
      (pp. 134-137)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Ian McEwan observed recently that there were, in effect, two kinds of people: those who could have used or recognized the words “Abu Ghraib” a few years ago, and those to whom it became a new term only last year. And what a resonant name it has indeed become. Now the Colombian painter Fernando Botero has produced a sequence of lurid and haunting pictures, based on the photographs taken by American war criminals, with which he hopes to draw attention to the horrors inflicted there. But his true ambition, he says, is to do for Abu Ghraib what Picasso did...

    • 30 History and Mystery Slate, May 16, 2005
      (pp. 137-140)
      Christopher Hitchens

      When theNew York Timesscratches its head, get ready for total baldness as you tear out your hair. A doozy classic led the “Week in Review” section on Sunday. Portentously headed “The Mystery of the Insurgency,” the article rubbed its eyes at the sheer lunacy and sadism of the Iraqi car bombers and random murderers. At a time when new mass graves are being filled, and old ones are still being dug up, writer James Bennet practically pleaded with the authors of both to come up with an intelligible (or defensible?) reason for his paper to go on calling...

    • 31 Unmitigated Galloway Weekly Standard, May 30, 2005
      (pp. 140-150)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Every journalist has a list of regrets: of stories that might have been. Somewhere on my personal list is an invitation I received several years ago, from a then-Labour Member of Parliament named George Galloway. Would I care, he inquired, to join him on a chartered plane to Baghdad? He was hoping to call attention to the sufferings of the Iraqi people under sanctions, and had long been an admirer of my staunch and muscular prose and my commitment to universal justice (I paraphrase only slightly). Indeed, in an article in a Communist party newspaper in 2001 he referred to...

    • 32 Losing the Iraq War Slate, August 8, 2005
      (pp. 150-152)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Another request in my in-box, asking if I’ll be interviewed about Iraq for a piece “dealing with how writers and intellectuals are dealing with the state of the war, whether it’s causing depression of any sort, if people are rethinking their positions or if they simply aren’t talking about it.” I suppose that I’ll keep on being asked this until I give the right answer, which I suspect is “Uncle.”

      There is a sort of unspoken feeling, underlying the entire debate on the war, that if you favored it or favor it, you stress the good news, and if you...

    • 33 A War to Be Proud Of Weekly Standard, September 5, 2005
      (pp. 152-160)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Let me begin with a simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: “Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad.”

      I could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for...

    • 34 Anti-War, My Foot Slate, September 26, 2005
      (pp. 160-164)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Saturday’s demonstration in Washington, in favor of immediate withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, was the product of an opportunistic alliance between two other very disparate “coalitions.” Here is how theNew York Times(after a front-page and an inside headline, one of them reading “Speaking Up Against War” and one of them reading “Antiwar Rallies Staged in Washington and Other Cities”) described the two constituencies of the event: “The protests were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow,...

    • 35 An Interview with Christopher Hitchens, Part I: Radicalism, Liberty, and the Post-Socialist World Reason Online (November 2001)
      (pp. 167-177)
      Christopher Hitchens and RHYS SOUTHAN

      RHYS SOUTHAN: How does your younger contrarian self differ from your older one?

      CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: The book [Letters to a Young Contrarian] forces me to ask that question, and yet I don’t quite. I must say that I’ve always found the generational emphasis on the way that my youth was covered to be very annoying. There were a lot of other people born in April 1949, and I just don’t feel like I have anything in common with most of them. I forget who it was who said that generation—age group, in other words—is the most debased form...

    • 36 Don’t. Be. Silly. An Open Letter to Martin Amis Guardian, September 4, 2002
      (pp. 177-183)
      Christopher Hitchens

      You know how it is with kind friends. If a disobliging word is published about one, in, let’s say, the letters column of theSheep-Shearer’s Gazettein the south island of New Zealand, they will take infinite pains to get word of it to you by fax or email. So I have lately been reading bushels of stuff about myself, generated by reviews of your book on Stalinism. I wince on my own behalf a good deal as I wade through, but I don’t forget to wince for you as well. Hardened as I am to hostile or philistine reviews,...

    • 37 Europe’s Status Quo Left: A Review of Language, Politics, and Writing: Stolentelling in Western Europe by Patrick McCarthy Foreign Policy (July/August 2003)
      (pp. 184-189)
      Christopher Hitchens

      At a time when “European” cultural opinion is so much sought after and discussed by Americans of liberal temper, and considered suspect by so many Americans of the conservative school, one might do much worse than to consult the work of a man of Irish descent, reared in South Wales, who teaches in Bologna (at the Paul H. Nitze School of the Johns Hopkins University campus there) and whose expertise is the modern history and politics of France. I have derived great pleasure and instruction from both reading and conversing with Patrick McCarthy in the past, and so I opened...

    • 38 Left-Leaving, Left-Leaning: A Review of Left Illusions by David Horowitz and Not Without Love by Constance Webb Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003
      (pp. 189-193)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Not long ago, having expressed some disagreements in print with an old comrade of long standing,¹ I was sent a response that he had published in an obscure newspaper [Counter Punch, August 20, 2003]. This riposte referred to my opinions as “racist.” I would obviously scorn to deny such an allegation on my own behalf. I would, rather, prefer to repudiate it on behalf of my former friend. He had known me for many years and cooperated with me on numerous projects, and I am quite confident that he would never have as a collaborator anyone he suspected of racial...

    • 39 Polymath with a Cause: A Review of From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map by Edward W. Said Washington Post, August 15, 2004
      (pp. 193-197)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Edward Said, who died last September after an astonishingly tenacious duel with leukemia, had at least three interlocking careers and perhaps four. He was a most accomplished literary critic, who combined a reverence for canonical English with an awareness of postmodern methods. He was what I like to call a civilizational critic as well, interpreting Eastern and Western societies to each other and mapping, in his best known work,Orientalism, an attack on scholarly presumption that altered the perspective of a generation. He was a full-time volunteer on behalf of the cause of the dispossessed Palestinian people. And he was...

    • 40 Susan Sontag: An Obituary Slate, December 29, 2004
      (pp. 197-201)
      Christopher Hitchens

      Between the word “public” and the word “intellectual” there falls, or ought to fall, a shadow. The life of the cultivated mind should be private, reticent, discreet: Most of its celebrations will occur with no audience, because there can be no applause for that moment when the solitary reader gets up and paces round the room, having just noticed the hidden image in the sonnet, or the profane joke in the devotional text, or the secret message in the prison diaries. Individual pleasure of this kind is only rivaled when the same reader turns into a writer, and after a...

    • 41 An Interview with Christopher Hitchens, Part II: Anti-Fascism, Reactionary Conservatism, and the Post–September 11 World Frontpage, December 10, 2003
      (pp. 201-218)
      Christopher Hitchens and JAMIE GLAZOV

      JAMIE GLAZOV: I’d like to begin with your intellectual journey. You were, at one time, a man of the Left and, if I am correct, a Trotskyist. What led you to this political disposition? It is often said that a lot of our personal psychology and character lead us to our political outlooks. When you look back, does this apply to you in any way? Tell us a bit about your attraction to the Left, Trotskyism, Isaac Deutscher, etc.

      CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: At the time and place when I came to political awareness, which was in the early mid-1960s in England,...

    • 42 Letter to the Nation, October 1, 2001
      (pp. 221-221)
      NOAM CHOMSKY and Christopher Hitchens

      Chomsky was asked by theNationto respond to two articles by Christopher Hitchens: “Against Rationalization” and “Of Sin, the Left, and Islamic Fascism” (see chapters 3 and 4, respectively, in this volume). “After refusing several times,” he “reluctantly” agreed to do so.

      Chomsky begins by questioning Hitchens’s refusal to credit a comparison between the September 11 attacks and President Clinton’s rocketing of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum in August 1998. Referring to the latter, Chomsky observes that it inflicted a vast human toll, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. “To regard the comparison...

      (pp. 222-228)
      Christopher Hitchens

      The two related questions before the house are these. Can the attacks of September 11 be compared to an earlier outrage committed by Americans? And should they be so compared?

      Noam Chomsky does not rise much above the level of half-truth in his comparison of the September 11 atrocities to Clinton’s rocketing of Sudan. Since his remarks are directed at me, I’ll instance a less-thanhalf- truth as he applies it to myself. I “must be unaware,” he writes, that I “express such racist contempt for African victims of a terrorist crime.” With his pitying tone of condescension, and his insertion...

    • 43 Letter to the Nation, January 10, 2002
      (pp. 228-229)
      EDWARD S. HERMAN and Christopher Hitchens

      Herman begins by questioning Hitchens’s self-proclaimed radical credentials. Defining the essence of “liberalism” as, via L. T. Hobhouse, an aversion to force, Herman dismissively observes that Hitchens can’t even be described as a liberal.

      Herman then goes on to castigate Hitchens for his view that the war in Afghanistan was executed with an almost “pedantic policy” of avoiding civilian casualties, and did not cause a “serious loss of civilian life”:

      Marc Herold has calculated, on the basis of news reports alone, that more than 3,500 Afghan civilians have been killed by US bombs, more than in the Trade Center bombings,...

      (pp. 229-230)
      Christopher Hitchens

      I’m happy to let readers decide for themselves about my ideological character. But I don’t mind having it said that I favor physical force against fascism, and even relish it. And I think Hobhouse is a dubious source for determining that liberalism equals pacifism. Whether Herman is a pacifist or not I neither know nor care: that he isn’t an ally in battles against fascism is already notorious.

      Shortly after September 11 he wrote that the attack on the World Trade Center was reminiscent of the methods employed by NATO to get Milosevic out of Kosovo. Now his dismal search...

    • 44 Christopher Hitchens: The Dishonorable Policeman of the Left
      (pp. 230-236)
      SCOTT LUCAS and Christopher Hitchens

      It was a sudden, devastating attack. The perpetrator struck mercilessly, leaving no time for a considered response. When he had finished, the “Left” was in ruins.

      “I have no hesitation in describing this mentality, carefully and without heat,” the author wrote heatedly, “as soft on crime and soft on fascism. No political coalition is possible with such people and, I’m thankful to say, no political coalition with them is now necessary. It no longer matters what they think.”

      And, with that strike, we could rest assured that no dissent—no quibbling about military action against Afghanistan; no worries about the bypassing...

    • 45 Letter to the Nation, January 6, 2003
      (pp. 237-238)
      STUDS TERKEL and Christopher Hitchens

      I was fascinated by the letters between Christopher Hitchens and Katha Pollitt.¹ There was a throwaway reference in Hitchens’s piece that caught my attention. It was a reference to Gore Vidal, at whom he threw a rabbit punch, among others. I was suddenly reminded of a moment in the late, late, late of the evening when Hitch and I got smashed. It was just a couple of years ago.

      He was in Chicago in re his excellent Kissinger book. During those blurry moments at my house, and very delightful they were, he con-fided that in some quarters he was regarded...

      (pp. 238-242)
      Christopher Hitchens

      I am hoping that an open letter to my readers won’t seem unduly conceited or solipsistic. Every month for years, the letters editors at theNationwould send me the correspondence regarding me and ask me if I wanted to reply, and each time I would say no, don’t bother, the letters column belongs to the readers, I have my own space in the magazine, I won’t respond unless accused of fabrication, child-abuse, racism etc.

      However, there have been so many attacks on me fromNationquarters in the recent past that I wonder from time to time if people...

    • 46 Hitchens as Model Apostate
      (pp. 242-250)
      NORMAN FINKELSTEIN and Christopher Hitchens

      I’m occasionally asked whether I still consider myself a Marxist. Even if my “faith” had lapsed, I wouldn’t advertise it, not from shame at having been wrong (although admittedly this would be a factor) but rather from fear of arousing even a faint suspicion of opportunism. To borrow from the lingo of a former academic fad, if, in public life, the “signifier” is “I’m no longer a Marxist,” then the “signified” usually is, “I’m selling out.” No doubt one can, in light of further study and life experience, come to repudiate past convictions. One might also decide that youthful ideals,...

      (pp. 250-257)
      Christopher Hitchens

      In his delightful memoir of his father, Alexander Cockburn recalls Claud’s method of dealing with unwelcome bills, and with the ominous red-tinted follow-up letters that often succeeded them. The old man composed a fantasy-response, informing his creditors that every six months he would throw all his unpaid bills into a basket, stir them with a stick, and then take out two or three and pay them at random. “One more nasty letter from you and you’re out of the game.”

      I could spend a lot of my time replying to attacks on my person, but I now play a version...

    • 47 Obituary for a Former Contrarian
      (pp. 257-263)
      DENNIS PERRIN and Christopher Hitchens

      Bright spring afternoon. Hitch and I spend it in his fave DC pub just down the street from his spacious apartment. At the long polished bar, he sips a martini, I swig Tanqueray on ice offset by pints of ale. The pub’s TV is flashing golf highlights while the jukebox blasts classic rock. We’re chatting about nothing in particular when the juke begins playing “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens. Hitch stops talking. His face tightens. Eyes narrow. I know this look—I saw it onCrossfirewhen he nearly slugged a Muslim supporter of the Ayatollah’sfatwaagainst Salman Rushdie. I...

    • 48 Farewell Hitch
      (pp. 264-273)
      GEORGE SCIALABBA and Christopher Hitchens

      If a hall of fame were established for contemporary book reviewers—well, why not? There’s one for ad executives, poker players, and probably porn stars—Christopher Hitchens would very likely be its second inductee. (James Wood, of course, would be the first.) About an amazing range of literary and political figures—Proust, Joyce, Borges, Byron, Bellow, Orhan Pamuk, Tom Paine, Trotsky, Churchill, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Israel Shahak, and a hundred others—he has supplied the basic information, limned the relevant controversies, hazarded an original perception or two, and thrown out half a dozen fine phrases, causing between fifteen and forty-five...

    • 49 The Passion of Christopher Hitchens: A Review of Love, Poverty, and War by Christopher Hitchens
      (pp. 273-279)
      MICHAEL KAZIN and Christopher Hitchens

      Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, an unsettling matter has roiled certain precincts of the Left: Christopher Hitchens’s zealous support of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, in particular its war in Iraq. How could the once fearless radical polemicist have become a cheerleader for the neoconservative project to remake the world? Why must he revile former comrades as either traitors or slackers in the struggle against terrorists? Why, this June, did he join David Horowitz to conduct a ten-day tour of London, featuring private visits to the House of Lords and the estate of Winston Churchill?

      Some believe Hitchens’s...

    • 50 Christopher Hitchens: Flickering Fireband
      (pp. 279-301)
      GARY MALONE and Christopher Hitchens

      In an offhand remark tucked away in a book review in theNationmany years ago, Christopher Hitchens once averred: “The real test of a radical or a revolutionary is not the willingness to confront the orthodoxy and arrogance of the rulers but the readiness to contest illusions and falsehoods among close friends and allies.”² Years later, he was to famously leave theNationover just such differences of opinion with the Left concerning every major political development that has flowed from the September 11 attacks.³ In the immediate aftermath of the multi-story immolations in New York and Washington, Hitchens...

    • 51 Christopher Hitchens’s Last Battle
      (pp. 302-312)
      JUAN COLE and Christopher Hitchens

      Bush administration foot-dragging and ineptitude in handling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans has profoundly demoralized his supporters on the Right. The hawkish intellectuals who gathered around George W. Bush to support his “War on Terror” once used language that suggested his machine-like omnicompetence. The Afghanistan War was to be “Operation Infinite Justice” until it was pointed out that Allah was the only one in that part of the world generally permitted to use that kind of language. The images of civilians abandoned to their fates and unchecked looting from New Orleans, however, reminded everyone of Bush’s disastrous...

    • 52 The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens
      (pp. 312-330)
      RICHARD SEYMOUR and Christopher Hitchens

      Picture a necrotic, sinister, burned-out wasteland—a vast, dull mound of rubble punctuated by moments of bleak emptiness and, occasionally, smoking. Those of you whose imaginations alighted instantly on the Late Christopher Hitchens have only yourselves to blame, for I was referring to Fallujah. The “city of mosques” was sacrificed in November 2004 during an all-American war movie: the MacGuffin, an obscure yet deadly figure known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who, predictably, “escaped” with his wily confederates into the deserts.¹

      Before the operation, the city was bombed to “encourage” its evacuation, and shortly thereafter sealed off—any male of fighting...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 331-342)

    “Have you seen that book of interviews with Raymond Williams by theNew Left Review,” inquired James Fenton one spring morning in 1979, whenPolitics and Lettershad first fallen stillborn from the press. I responded that I had managed thus far to avoid it. “Well, take a look. They talk to him as if he wasa category.”

    The decades proceed; I deliver the Raymond Williams memorial lecture in such a way as to give a normally unsentimental professor like Stefan Collini the sense that I have abused some kind of hospitality; 1 history is not kind to those...

    (pp. 343-346)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 347-366)