Christopher Hitchens: In Defense of Endless Absurdity


Today I was unfortunate enough to read through Christopher Hitchens' latest pro-war diatribe over at Slate: “In Defense of Endless War: As 9/11 showed, civilization has enemies with which peace is neither possible nor desirable.”
 
His rant against timelines for wars clearly misses the point of critics who derail America's War of Terror as “endless.” But it’s not this issue that really makes Hitchens insufferable. It is his willful ignorance on many levels—though it’s not his account of US-Iraq relations that I want to comment on. It’s his “civilization” crap.
 
It reminds me a lot of the “anti-American” slur that is used to tarnish and dismiss critics.
 
So long as you define “America” as the country’s government, or its policies, then anyone who dares to criticize “

America
” is by default “anti-American.”
 
But

America
isn’t its government policies.
 
The same applies to “civilization.” One gets the impression that Hitchens is confusing the US Empire with “civilization.” Apparently for him if Islamic “terrorists” attack the US Empire then by default it is an attack on “civilization.”
 
The problem is that Hitchens’ apologia of 

US
state-sponsored terrorism and wars of aggression, wrapped in rhetoric about "defending civilization," is pure folly. If the

US empire is "civilization" then "civilization" surely has no problem with "terrorists" so long as they serve "civilization." Which we can tell by looking at some of the folks “civilization” supports around the world (e.g. Libyan rebels, Paul Kagame, Hashim Thaçi, etc).
 
The government has long known that the issue is our policies, not our freedoms, or our culture. It’s the military presence in their region; the propping up brutal dictators; and our support for

Israel. This is what a Pentagon report, issued seven years ago this month, stated,
American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the

United States
to single-digits in some Arab societies. 

• Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the

Gulf states
.
• Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World — but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.
• Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and

Iraq
has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering.

U.S.
actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim selfdetermination.
• Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack — to broad public support.
• What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.
• Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic — namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is — for Americans — really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game.

This “defending civilization” and fighting terror argument is a bogus pretext for an endless war to dominate the world—meaning there is no clear ultimate objective. The only legitimate purpose for war is to defend against an armed attack. The war is over once the armed attack is over. Claiming “civilization” is threatened by an abstract noun (i.e. a military tactic known as “terrorism”) and that we must wage a "War on Terror" is “endless” in that it cannot be won. We can not wage a war against a tactic like “terrorism”—especially while we employ it—anymore than we can fight ambush, night raids, assassination, amphibious assaults, etc. How can we possibly fight a war against a tactic?

What Hitchens clearly refuses to understand is that the so-called War on Terrorism is, well . . . bullshit; a smokescreen. The real war is about Empire. So when a former Bush official recently writes an op-ed about why US forces should stay in Iraq, and says that, “Finally, and most compelling, there is the role that Iraq may play in averting a major global energy crisis in the coming years . . .” sensible people say, “Duh. It’s always been clear that this war is about oil.”

 
Hitchens provided less a defense of endless war, and more a defense of endless absurdity.

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